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A beautiful, sunny day can bring with it loads of fun and excitement or life threatening illness. Heat sickness is a fast acting, dangerous killer. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can bring about an irreversible coma and even, death.

Know the difference
It’s important to note the differences between the three main heat related illnesses. While heat cramps can be uncomfortable, they are not life threatening. Heat stroke, on the other hand, needs immediate medical attention.

Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are caused by muscle contractions in both the gastronomies or hamstring area (back of calves). Feeling most like a severe muscle pull, heat cramps are forceful and painful. Heat cramps are associated with lack of fluids, high temperatures and lack of physical conditioning. Heat cramps, while painful, are not life threatening. Ignoring heat cramps however, can bring about the progression of other, more serious heat related illnesses. Heat cramps can be treated with water, cool air and rest.

Heat Exhaustion
This condition is exactly what it sounds like: severe exhaustion caused by extreme body heat. Excessive heat and dehydration can cause the body to overreact, thus raising your body temperature to over 102-degrees. Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion include paleness, nausea, extreme fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, vomiting, fainting and cool, clammy skin. Heat Exhaustion is a serious illness and should be carefully monitored. Cool, shady environments, liquids, cool rags placed on various areas of the body and replacement of electrolytes (such as those found in sports drinks) are used to treat this condition. If body temperature remains elevated even after treatment, it's best to consult your doctor for further information and instruction.

Heat Stroke
Heat Stroke is a medical emergency, and the most severe form of heat related illness. Anyone exhibiting the signs and symptoms of Heat Stroke should be rushed to the nearest hospital or clinic. Unlike other forms of heat illness, Heat Stroke does not have to be caused by exercise or exertion. High temperatures, lack of body fluids and overexposure to the elements can all bring about Heat Stroke. The very young and old are especially susceptible to the hazards of this heat related illness.

Symptoms
The first sign to look for in a victim of Heat Stroke is red, flushed skin. People who are suffering Heat Stroke, do not sweat, so it is critical that they receive emergency care immediately to relieve their body of heat. Other signs of Heat Stroke include:

A body temperature of 106-degrees or higher
Seizures
Headache
Rapid pulse
Unconsciousness


Prevention of Heat Stroke
It is possible to avoid suffering the ill effects of heat related disorders by taking a few simple precautions.

Hydration
The easiest way to avoid Heat Stroke and other heat disorders is to keep your body well hydrated. This means drinking plenty of water before, during and after exposure to the elements. Sports drinks are a good choice if you’re exercising or working in hot conditions, but water works fine, too.

Ventilation
Staying in a place where there is plenty of airspace which will help allow your body to naturally cool itself. Sitting in a shaded, wide open area will help your body rid itself of heat through sweating. If you're indoors, always open windows, use a fan, central air or air conditioning during excessively hot days.

Clothing
What you wear can play a big factor in how your body will handle the heat. Light colored, loose fitting clothing will aid your body in breathing and cooling itself down naturally. Tight clothing restricts such a process and dark colors absorb the sun’s light and heat. It’s okay to wear a hat to shield yourself from the sun, but once you feel yourself getting warm, it’s best to remove any items that are covering your head. Continuing to wear head garments will only keep more heat trapped inside of your body.

Limit Yourself
Watching how much activity you’re participating in during hot days is also important. Don’t overdue it. Heat Stroke can set in in less than an hour. If you feel yourself getting warm or lightheaded, it’s best to take a time out and rest in the shade.

Heat related illnesses are preventable. Like many sicknesses, it's easier to take steps against Heat Stroke than it is to treat it. Most doctors recommend consuming eight or more glasses of water a day during normal weather conditions and twice that during high heat periods.