Treating Heat Illness & Injury

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    Since we recently discussed means of preventing heat injuries, we might as well follow that up with how to care for them when they occur. Even the best laid plans can go awry, making it possible for you to have to deal with things you did your best to avoid. With plans in place to avoid heat illness or injury, chances are you will fare better than most, but there is still the possibility that the heat will affect you or someone who is part of your family or camp.

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    Even though sunburn and sun blindness are not as severe as other forms of heat illness, they are still problems with which you may be faced. Calming a sunburn can be done by applying a cooling agent such as aloe vera or solarcaine. For pain related to sunburns, over the counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers will also help. Exposing sunburned skin to more sunlight will create more damage and intensify damage already done, so be sure to cover sunburned skin and allow it time to heal. For sun blindness, which can occur in the form of burned retinas, the same pain relievers will help, but you will also need to keep your eyes covered and wait it out. Sunglasses will work to shield your eyes as will a cloth with small slits cut into it; these slots should be just large enough to allow you to see where you are going but not large enough to expose your eyes.

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    When heat cramps begin to set in, this is a sign that you are losing essential electrolytes thanks to profuse sweating. These cramps generally appear in your legs, arms, or abdominal area. If they are not attended to, the next thing you will likely experience is heat exhaustion. When heat exhaustion begins to set in, so will heavy sweating, lightheadedness, headache, elevated temperature, dilated pupils, confusion, nausea/vomiting, and more. To get these problems under control, you will need to rest and rehydrate your body as well as replenishment of lost electrolytes. Drinks such as Gatorade will help with replenishing electrolytes. After treatment, you may begin to feel better, but following up with a medical professional is worthwhile regardless.

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    When you have progressed to a point where sweating stops, the situation has surpassed serious and accelerated on to becoming dire. As heat stroke occurs, your body stops sweating because it simply has no fluids left to spare. Also likely to occur during heat stroke is brain damage, liver and kidney failure, issues with blood clotting, and malfunction of the central nervous system. Heat stroke must be addressed immediately; left untreated in can result in death. In some cases, heat stroke may result in a loss of consciousness and IV fluids will need to be administered to get fluids back into the body. Remove clothing of affected persons and wet them down with cool water in an effort to bring the body temperature down. Elevate their feet and place packs of cool water or ice behind their neck, under their arms, and around their groin if possible. Heat stroke is a serious matter that requires medical assistance, so make every effort to get care for the stricken as soon as possible.

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    Even though we all like to enjoy some fun in the sun from time to time, we must do so cautiously. Although prevention is key, there is no guarantee that you or someone you care about will not succumb to heat related issues. It is in cases such as this that knowing how to recognize heat related problems and being able to take action is essential. Since heat illness and injury can cause disorientation and other diminished mental capacities, it may be up to you to save the life of someone who is too far gone to realize the danger with which they are faced. Take care of yourself, but prepare to take care of others as well by recognizing signs of trouble before it becomes too late.

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