As The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains, prolonged exposure to heat and insufficient body fluid can result in heat exhaustion. Its symptoms can include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness headache and nausea or vomiting.
Heat exhaustion can affect the elderly, people with high blood pressure, and those who work outside. Outdoor workers may also be prone to heat rash from prolonged sweating, or heat cramps from too much exertion.
Heat can also lead to other, more serious problems.
Normally, our bodies can cool down by sweating, but in extreme heat, the body can lose its ability to regulate temperature. The sweating function fails, and body temperature rises rapidly, resulting in heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that can damage the brain and other organs, and even kill you.
Heat stroke symptoms can vary, but you want to watch out for red, hot and dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.
If you think someone might be suffering from heat stroke, call 911. And then cool them down any way you can until help arrives. Get them to the shade or an air conditioned area. Spray or sponge them with cold water, or immerse them in a tub of cold water if possible. If it's not too humid, you can wrap the victim in a wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously. You want to get the victim's body temperature to go down to 101 to 102 degrees.
To avoid heat-related illness, drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids, pace yourself when working outdoors, replace salts and minerals, wear lightweight clothing, seek air conditioning, and take cold showers.
Use common sense. Schedule your outdoor activities to avoid the hottest parts of the day, and use a buddy system if necessary to keep watch on those at high risk.
If you don't have air conditioning where you live, try to find a public place that does, such as a mall or library. Even just a few hours of air conditioning a day can reduce the risk of heat-related illness.