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The Dangerous Signs of Heat Illness In Houston

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

As we venture into Houston’s hottest months, everyone is concerned about heat. Whether your kids are hitting the field for football practice or you’re taking to the streets for a jog, make sure everyone in your family knows the dangerous signs of heat-related illness, which are all too common for August in Houston.

Common Heat Illnesses In Houston

Heat illness can develop when the body is unable to cool itself through sweating. Common heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heatstroke: This is a potentially life-threatening condition in which body temperature rapidly rises above 104 ºF. Common symptoms include dry skin, dizziness and a rapid/strong pulse. Individuals who experience heatstroke have usually over-exerted themselves and/or had prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Emergency treatment is absolutely necessary; failure to treat heatstroke could cause permanent damage to the kidneys, brain, heart or muscles.
  • Heat Exhaustion: This condition is heatstroke’s predecessor. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, fainting, fatigue and a fast/weak pulse. Heat exhaustion is caused by either dehydration or salt depletion. Symptoms can vary depending on the cause. While heat exhaustion is not an emergency in the same way that heatstroke is, it is essential that the patient stop what she is doing, get into an air-conditioned room and drink plenty of fluids. Cool down and replace lost water and minerals.
  • Heat Cramps: Excessive sweating may dehydrate the body and deplete salt levels. When sodium levels drop in the body, muscles may cramp up, causing pain and/or spasms. Heat cramps typically occur in the arms, legs and abdomen. Most people can recover from heat cramps relatively quickly. However, people with heart issues or low-sodium diets should seek medical attention for heat cramps. You should also seek medical attention if the heat cramps have not subsided within an hour.
  • Heat Rash: Heat rash is most common in young children, but can occur in anyone. A cluster of small blisters or pimples may appear on the neck, upper chest, elbow creases, groin or under the breasts. This type of skin irritation is caused by excessive sweating. Houston’s hot, humid weather makes some people especially prone to heat rash.

Schedule With a Houston Sports Medicine Doctor

Many instances of heat-related illness can be cared for at home. If you experience an urgent heat-related illness, such as heat stroke or heat cramps that won’t go away, see an urgent care provider immediately. For other Houston sports medicine needs, schedule an appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics by calling (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.