The lethal heat wave that’s plagued the U.S. this summer serves as a reminder that staying cool as the temperature climbs is serious business. Excessive heat may cause a rapid pulse and excessive sweating—a result of your body overheating and experiencing heat exhaustion—especially in people who are working or exercising outside. Without proper hydration, heat exhaustion can escalate to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that kills approximately 400 Americans every year.
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s internal temperature exceeds 104 degrees and is unable to cool down because the body loses its ability to sweat, says Ritucci. “The key to avoiding or preventing this condition is hydration,” he explains. “Drink plain water to replace any fluids you have lost.” On a hot day, reserve early mornings and evenings for strenuous activities such as exercising. Seeking out shade whenever possible, avoiding being outdoors at the hours of peak heat (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and wearing loose clothing can also help prevent overheating.
Redness, dizziness, nausea, fever, headache, dry skin, and rapid pulse may indicate heat stroke and 911 should be called immediately. If you’re experiencing symptoms and are capable of doing so, put cool, damp cloths on your groin, neck, back and armpits—the places where heat is most concentrated—and lie down while awaiting medical assistance.