Over the last couple of weeks we have seen an increase in the number of heat exhaustion cases reported. Normal controls to reduce this risk include providing cool water, shade and regular rest periods. In addition staff need to be aware of the symptoms and first aiders trained in dealing with such cases.
Heat Exhaustion Heat exhaustion develops over hours or days due to water and electrolyte loss from sweating. Symptoms are headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Physically the pulse will be rapid, the skin will be moist and the person may be pale.
The key issue is fluid loss, have the patient drink water (1/4 teaspoon of salt in a litre of water helps replace salts). Provide shade and cool the patient.
Heat Stroke Heatstroke results in sudden collapse with extreme rise in the body temperature, decreased mental ability and shock. It is a medical emergency that can kill. Symptoms are headaches, drowsiness, irritability, confusion sometimes with convulsions. Its onset can be very sudden. Physically the person will be hot with a bounding pulse.
Treatment: Remove the patient from the heat, and cool rapidly, this can be done by putting them in a cold bath or soak them and fan rapidly. Cool packs (not ice) can be placed near the neck, the stomach, armpits and groin. You must monitor their temperature and stop cooling when they reach 39ºC. Continue to monitor the temperature so it does not go higher or lower. The person must be sent to hospital urgently.
Heat Cramps Cramping that occurs during exercise or with heat exhaustion. Like heat exhaustion it is caused by salt and water depletion.
Treatment: Stretch the affected muscles, provide weak solution of salt water (see above). Do not give salt tablet.