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How heat illnesses can quickly turn into medical emergencies

It's important to know the symptoms and how to prevent getting overheated.

TAMPA, Fla. — We have had a string of unusually hot days this week in the Tampa Bay area, and summer is just getting started. 

No matter how hot it gets, people are still going to the beach, visiting amusement parks, kids are at summer camps and playing sports. So it's important to know the difference between being hot and having a major medical condition.

"We see quite a few heat related illnesses starting now and continuing through the fall here in Florida," TGH Urgent Care's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Peter Nanda explains.

Dr. Danielle Mercurio, a pediatric emergency physician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, says you need to be aware of how you're feeling when you're outside on hot days. 

"On one end you have heat cramps and on the other end you have heat stroke and then there's something called heat exhaustion in the middle," she says.

And she explains it's important to know the symptoms of heat illnesses, especially if you are with kids who may not realize anything is wrong. 

"Family members and coaches need to check in with children I would say about every half hour when it's really really hot outside."

The best way to prevent heat illness is by staying hydrated, even before you head outside, according to Nanda. 

"By the time you feel thirst or that thirst sensation hits, you're already dehydrated," she says. "You want to make sure you're encouraging plenty of drinking of fluids before the activity as well."

Mercurio takes that a step further, claiming heat exhaustion can occur from losing too much water and losing too much salt. 

"So you can drink all the water you want, but you don't get that salt and sugar that your body needs to function and your muscles need to be able to function... you can get very very very sick," Mercurio explains.

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

Heat stroke is an emergency and requires medical attention, so with that in mind, Nanda says be aware of the symptoms. 

"Really looking for that dry mouth, the heart racing, some nauseousness, or if you stop sweating," Nanda says. "Sweating is your body's natural cooling method. If you're out and you stop sweating that's a problem as well."

Also, anytime a person acts confused while out in the heat, that can be a sign of something serious. Get them in a cool place, give them fluids and keep an eye on them to make sure they are OK.


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