Published on September 03, 2015

Avoiding Heat-Related Illnesses

We knew it was inevitable. For the most part our summer had been pretty mild, so we knew that there would be at least one more heatwave – and that, of course, the first home Iowa State football game would take place during it.

The heat wave shouldn’t last much past the game this Saturday. However, it could definitely have an impact on those tailgating prior to the game and it doesn’t take long to be stricken with a heat-related illness.

With the clock ticking down to the first kickoff of the season and a heat index of around 100 forecasted, I thought it might be useful to talk about heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I enlisted the help of Mary Greeley Medical Center's Director of Emergency Services, Steve Gelder, and Beth Frandsen, the Director for Mary Greeley's Mobile Intensive Care Services.

Heat-related illnesses can occur suddenly, so it’s fairly common for people suffering from them to be seen in the Emergency Department. Here, Steve and Beth discuss the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, when to seek medical attention and how they can be prevented.

Q: We’ve all heard about heat exhaustion and heat stroke–can you talk about the difference between the two?

Heat exhaustion develops when a person is exerting themselves in hot weather and does not drink enough to replace lost liquids. Heat stroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its own body temperature and the body temperature continues to rise. Heat stroke is a true medical emergency and requires immediate cooling and fluid replacement.

Q: At what point should someone seek medical attention?
Symptoms may present in mild degrees, but if the condition becomes more severe or worsens with time, contact a physician. Signs and symptoms of heat-related illness may include:

  • elevated body temperature
  • headache
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • muscle cramps

Q: Besides staying hydrated while outside, what other precautions can people take to protect themselves?

  • Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing
  • Use sunscreen
  • Stay in the shade or air conditioning as much as possible
  • Tailgate responsibly
  • Ice packs to the neck, armpits and groin can help rapidly cool an individual if heat-related symptoms appear

Please note that as at every home game, Mary Greeley’s paramedics will be both on-site and on call should a heat-related emergency arise.

Also know that if you are attending Saturday night’s game, per Jack Trice Stadium’s policy, you are allowed to bring in one unopened clear plastic bottle of water or one empty water bottle that can be refilled at stations located on the concourses. For more information on Saturday’s game, please click here.

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About the Author

Stephanie MarsauStephanie is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mary Greeley Medical Center. A blogger for several years, Stephanie's goal is to present health information in an entertaining, but helpful way.