Colorado Heat Wave: knowing the difference between heat-related illnesses

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — As the weather is warming up and kids soak up summer vacation, they’re spending a lot of time outside.

However, as we head into several days of extreme heat, especially reaching triple digits, be aware of the signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

Everyone is flocking to the parks and the pools, however, it might be smart to seek out some shade instead to prevent heat-related illnesses. 

The CDC said heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. while the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. 

There are 3 main reactions to hot temperatures and heat waves, these include heatstroke or sunstroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps.

One Colorado woman, Debbie Dunn, hospitalized twice from heatstroke last summer. She recounts her story in the video above and has a warning for others. During these trips to the hospital she learned her body lacks a potassium reserve which increases dehydration.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.

The Mayo Clinic says these are signs and symptoms of heatstroke:

  • High body temperature: A core body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher, obtained with a rectal thermometer, is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • Altered mental state or behavior: Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
  • Alteration in sweating: In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel dry or slightly moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting: You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Flushed skin: Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Rapid breathing: Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  • Racing heart rate: Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
  • Headache: Your head may throb.

Guidance from Children’s Hospital Colorado on Prevention of heat reactions:

  • Drink more water: When working or exercising in hot weather, have your child drink large amounts of cool water. This helps to prevent dehydration. For teens, this means at least 8 ounces (240 mL) every 15 to 30 minutes. Water is the ideal liquid for replacing lost sweat. Very little salt is lost.
  • Sports drinks: Most often, special sports drinks offer no advantage over water. But, they are helpful if working out for longer than an hour. If that is the case, replace 1 water drink per hour with a sports drink.
  • Dress cool: Wear a single layer of lightweight clothing. Change it if it becomes wet with sweat. Protect babies with fevers from heatstroke by not bundling them in blankets. Also, do not dress them in too many clothes. Children usually need the same number of clothing layers as adults.
  • Exercise smart: Physical activity in hot weather should be increased slowly. Sports coaches suggest that exercise sessions be shortened and made easier when it’s hot. This is usually when the temperature is over 82°F (28°C). Also, this is very important if the humidity is high.
  • Stay cool: During heat waves, spend as much time as possible inside with air-conditioning. Electric fans also help.
  • Slow down: It takes at least a week to get used to hot summer temperatures.

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