The Effects of Extreme Heat

International travelers can be exposed to environments that may include weather extremes. One of them is being opened to extreme heat. People who go to the beach or by the pool, hiking, running under the sun and many others may get heat illness especially if their bodies are not tolerant enough to adopt the current environment.

Minor Heat Problems

Heat cramps – a spasm felt after prolonged exercise under the heat which is common to people to who are participating in sports. This can be relieved by resting and do a passive stretching of the muscles together with drinking more water to rehydrate the body.

Heat fainting - is sudden black out that happens with people while standing under the sun for a long period of time or coming from a 20 -minute exercise. Although this is a temporary loss of consciousness, the fastest way to relief is to take oral fluids and rest your body for a while.

Heat edema – is the swelling of the parts of the body like hands or feet after a high temperature exposure. The best thing to do when this occurs is go into a cool area and drink more fluids.

Heat rash - is characterized as small, reddish, & itchy rash on the skin caused by excessive hotness. It is advisable to wear light clothing when traveling; and minimizing heavy, prolonged sweating. Let the normal air temperature dry the skin instead of wet towels.

Major Heat Problems

Heat exhaustion
This is mild feeling of nausea, dizziness, and headache that is involved with doing activities under the extreme hot climate. This is caused by the loss of electrolytes inside the body due to dehydration. This can lead to heat stroke if not taken precautionary actions right away. In most cases, this can be treated by resting the patient in a cool place then letting him drink an ample amount of water until exhaustion is suppressed.

Hyponatremia manifests as the lowering of level of sodium in the blood due to continues sweating and drinking too much water. This is very common to recreational hikers and athletes or people doing heavy physical activities. Most of the symptoms experienced by hyponatremia are very similar to heat exhaustion however; additional conditions like seizure and confusion can distinguish one from the other.
To prevent this, make sure that when you drink too much fluid, you also maintain urination. Water intake is sufficient for prolonged physical exercise, which is why most athletes take electrolyte-based drinks to add sodium in their bodies. For mountain hikers, they take food instead of plain electrolyte fluids to replace salt intake. Trail snacks include food mix & crackers.

Heat stroke
Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that may require hospitalization for support where the patient is unconscious for more than few seconds. The patient may also experience convulsion or seizure, difficulty in breathing, reddish skin, dizziness, nausea and headache.
The basic thing to do when this happens is the immediately apply cooling methods such as moving the person to the cool place; taking off clothing for the skin to exposed to the air; applying cold packs on the groin area to lower the body temperature; give rescue breathing if needed; or seek any medical attention.

Prevention of Heat-Related Discomforts

Always be well hydrated by drinking a lot of water before, during and after engaging any physical fitness or exposure from the sun. Sometimes when you are doing a heavy workout, it is advisable to take rehydration fluids (e.g Gatorade) instead of water, especially when you sweat too much.

Wear clothing are lightweight, loose, single-layered, and absorbent to allow faster air circulation & evaporation while getting protected from the heat. Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from too much light.

Do not stay too long under the hot environment. If possible, while walking or involved in any physical activity, use wide-brimmed hats or umbrellas for a shade.

If you know you are going to be standing for a long period of time in front of the heat, make sure that you stretch your muscles once in a while. This is to promote blood circulation on your legs and will prevent you from fainting.

People having per-existing conditions such as upper respiratory problems and cardiac-related diseases should minimize their exposure to this type of environment or doing heavy activities. If abnormal symptoms arise, quickly check with the physician.

If you are together with children or infants, don’t wait for them to ask for any drinks, instead regularly propose them to take fluids such as water, and fruit juice.

Before you depart for your next trip, make sure you get protected with an affordable and first class international travel insurance such as Allianz Travel. If you are not sure which one to choose, read our travel insurance buying guide here.

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