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Understanding Heat Injury & Heat Exhaustion in MA & RI

Heat injury is a continuum of illnesses ranging from mild to life threatening. There are three basic categories of heat injury — heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are common conditions that affect millions of people each year, and are preventable. Prevention is key, since heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heatstroke, which can be fatal, without proper treatment.

If you think you may have signs of heat exhaustion or heatstroke in Fall River, New Bedford, MA or the surrounding areas, come to Southcoast Health for quick treatment and reliable care. Find a sports medicine specialist or other physician near you today.

Risk Factors & Causes

Heat injury starts slowly when your body can’t cool itself adequately during exercise or physical activity. Risk factors of heat injury include:

  • Age — children’s bodies don’t regulate body heat as well as adults’ bodies
  • Clothing — dark colors, full body clothing, heavy pads and helmets trap heat and hamper cooling
  • Dehydration — even mild dehydration can prevent your body from producing sweat
  • Environment — including air temperature, humidity, wind speed and sun exposure
  • High body fat — body fat acts as insulation and makes cooling more difficult
  • Medical conditions — current or recent fever and sickle cell trait both increase the risk of heat injury
  • Medications — alcohol, antidepressants, antihistamines, antipsychotic medicines, benzodiazepines, beta blockers, diuretics and stimulants affect either your hydration level or your body’s ability to respond to heat

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion & Heatstroke

Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Elevated internal body temperature
  • Fainting
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Headache, dizziness or confusion
  • Heavy sweating
  • Increased thirst
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pale, cool, clammy skin
  • Weakness

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Disorientation
  • Fast breathing and rapid pulse
  • Flushed, hot, dry skin
  • High body temperature — 104°F or higher
  • Lack of sweating
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Severe headache

Heat Injury Treatment in Fall River, Dartmouth, New Bedford & Wareham at Southcoast Health

Heatstroke is a medical emergency, so you should dial 911 or seek immediate medical attention if you have the symptoms. While waiting for help or to manage any type of heat injury, take the following steps:

  • Get out of the heat
  • Loosen or remove helmets, protective equipment and as much clothing as possible
  • Use a fan if available
  • Drink cool fluids
  • Apply cool water to the skin or immerse in a cold bath
  • Apply ice packs or towels soaked in cold water to the armpits, groin and neck
  • Lie down and elevate your feet
  • Monitor internal body temperature with a thermometer

Southcoast Health provides treatment for heat injury, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke, for patients in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.