Prevent Heat-related Illnesses

woman drinking water

Your chances of getting heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or other heat-related illnesses during travel depends on your destination and your activities. Travelers who relax on a beach or by a pool are unlikely to get ill. However, if you are outside being active or are not used to the heat you are more likely to get ill. Learn how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illnesses.

Follow these tips to help you stay safe in the heat

  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids.
  • Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and reapply every two hours or follow instructions on the package.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Plan outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day.
  • Rest often and try to stay in the shade when outdoors.
  • Gradually increase your time spent doing strenuous activities outdoors in the heat, such as hiking or biking. Work your way up to longer periods of activity over several days.

Keep an eye on people who are more likely to get ill

The elderly, young children, and those with chronic illnesses are more likely to get heat-related illnesses compared to healthy adults. However, even young, healthy people can get sick from spending too much time in the heat.

Serious Heat-related Illnesses

Many heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps and heat rash can be treated by getting out of the heat and drinking fluids. However, some heat-related illness can be life threatening. It is important to identify the signs of heat-related illness early and get treatment.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a mild heat illness that occurs when someone is in hot temperatures and not drinking enough water or other fluids. People at highest risk for heat exhaustion are the elderly, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in the heat.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • excessive thirst
  • profuse sweating
  • headache
  • nausea
  • dizziness or confusion

If you or anyone you are traveling with has these symptoms, get out of the sun immediately and try to cool off with a fan, air conditioning, or by getting in cool water. Also, drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages such as water or sports drinks with electrolytes.

Heat stroke

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a serious heat-related illness. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises quickly and cannot cool down. 

Early symptoms of heat stroke are similar to those of heat exhaustion, but can progress to more severe symptoms including:

  • Lack of sweating.
  • Body temperature rising to 106°F or higher within 10-15 minutes. Even with no thermometer skin will feel very hot to the touch.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided immediately.

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