Summer is the time of year when people, especially those who spend lots of time outdoors, are more susceptible to dehydration and heat stroke. These illnesses can both be life-threatening if left untreated, but it can be hard to tell which one you’re dealing with. Here are a few of the key differences between dehydration and heat stroke, as well as how to treat and prevent them.
Cause and Symptoms of Dehydration
Our bodies naturally lose water every time we cry, sweat, and urinate, which is why it’s important to replenish it by drinking water throughout the day. Dehydration can be caused by too much sun exposure combined with not staying hydrated, but it can also be a side effect of diarrhea and vomiting.
Common symptoms of dehydration include less frequent urination, darker urine, thirst, fatigue, dry skin, headaches, joint and muscle cramping, light-headedness, dizziness, increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and a dry mouth.
How to Treat and Prevent Dehydration
Mild dehydration can be treated by replenishing your fluids with water or sports drinks that contain electrolytes, but moderate to severe dehydration might require immediate medical attention.
Luckily, you only need to do a few simple things to prevent dehydration before it happens. Drink water and sports drinks throughout the day, especially if you’re spending lots of time outdoors, and be sure to drink more water than you’re losing throughout the day. Apps or websites can be used to calculate how much water you need every day, and they can also help you track how much you’re drinking until you reach your goal. If you’re going to be outside during the day, schedule your activities for the morning or evening when the weather is cooler. Try to eat water-heavy foods like fruit on a regular basis, and avoid foods and drinks that can dehydrate you (such as salty foods and alcohol).
Causes and Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a severe illness caused by the rapid failure of your body’s natural cooling system. It’s most common in the elderly, infants, people who spend long periods of time in the sun, and people who take medicines that make them more sensitive to heat and sunlight.
Symptoms of heat stroke can include headaches, dizziness, confusion, disorientation, flushed skin, little to no sweating, hallucinations, high body temperature, and loss of consciousness.
How to Treat and Prevent Heat Stroke
A person suffering from heat stroke needs to be cooled down and taken to a hospital as soon as possible. Move the person into a shaded area and remove some of their clothes. Pour water on their skin and start fanning to stimulate sweating, and then apply ice packs to the armpits, the back of the neck, and the groin. Once you’ve done what you can to cool them down, take them to a hospital right away.
Heat stroke can be avoided or prevented by trying to stay cool in the heat. Avoid going outside on dangerously hot days, wear lightweight and breathable clothing, stay hydrated when you’re outdoors, and go inside or find a shaded area if you feel yourself overheating.
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