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Understanding heat-related illness could save a life

Published On: Jul 03 2013 08:08:28 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 04 2013 02:05:00 AM CDT

Signs and symptoms of heat related illnesses.

REDDING, Calif. -

The severe heat can cause severe issues to your health and well-being. It could be as mild as needing an extra drink of water, to as serious as losing consciousness.

Doctors say you can categorize some of these heat-related illnesses. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are typically the lighter to moderate problems.

Medical professionals say heat cramps are usually the result of a lack of electrolytes. They say you will likely see cramping in your legs and other body parts, along with a sense of dehydration.

Higher up on the scale is heat exhaustion. Doctors say that includes symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

However, doctors explain that all pales in comparison to heat stroke, which could be deadly.

“Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency where the person will die if they are not cooled rapidly,” said Dr. Jesse Wells of Mercy Medical Center in Redding. “The most important distinction between those three is whether or not the brain is working correctly. If they are confused, or altered in any way, that's heat stroke. That's a medical emergency. That patient has to be cooled as quickly as possible."

Wells said in these cases, you cannot wait for the patient to get to the hospital. He stated they need to be cooled off immediately. That includes putting ice packs on their neck or under their armpits. He said these are areas with major blood vessels.

Like many injuries, a patient is susceptible to repeat harm. Wells said for heat cramps, stay out of the heat for about a week in order to recover. He said for heat exhaustion, avoid the high heat for a month. For heat stroke, Wells said the timeline is one year.