Everyone likes it sunny and warm, but when the temperatures rise too much, it becomes unhealthy: Extreme heat no longer has much to do with summer fun, it can actually be dangerous for the body. How do you recognize emergencies such as heat stroke or sunstroke - and what is the best way to behave then?
If the temperatures keep rising above 30 degrees, one thing counts: take good care of yourself and others. Because on hot days, the body is busy not overheating. "We sweat more when the temperature is high because the sweat cools the body from the outside," explains Prof. Jörg Schlaak, chief physician at the Department of Internal Medicine at the Ameos Klinikum St. Clemens in Oberhausen. "But that also leads to an additional fluid loss of up to two liters on very hot days."
Sweating a lot also messes up the salt balance in the body. If you don't drink enough and stay in the blazing sun for too long, you will sometimes feel the consequences clearly. An overview of heat emergencies - and what to do then.
What are signs? Heat stroke causes heat to build up in the body and it is no longer able to cool down through sweating. According to the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), the body temperature rises quickly in the event of heat stroke. Within 10 to 15 minutes it can reach 40 degrees and more.
A heat stroke can be recognized by hot and dry skin, but also by an accelerated heart rate, cramps and vomiting. It is also possible that the affected person loses consciousness.
What to do? Heatstroke is an emergency, so don't be afraid to call 911. Even if the person regains consciousness after a short time. "In the case of heat stroke, medical care is essential," says internist Schlaak. The most important measure here: rebalancing the body's lack of liquid and salt through infusions.
Until the rescue service arrives, the following applies: Put the affected person in the shade and protect them from the sun's rays. The upper body should be elevated. The German Red Cross (DRK) also advises cooling the body of the person affected - for example with wet towels. Caution: Ice must not be on the skin. If the person is conscious, you can also offer them something to drink - water, juice spritzers or fruit teas.
What are signs? If you are in the blazing sun for a while without a hat, the meninges can be irritated - in severe cases it can even lead to brain swelling, according to the BZgA. Then there is sunstroke.
It becomes noticeable, for example, through headaches and dizziness, but also through a crimson, hot head. Nausea and vomiting are also common symptoms. By the way: The symptoms can also occur long after you have not been in the sun. "Small children are particularly at risk and should never go out in the sweltering sun without a hat," says Schlaak. Because they have less hair on their heads and a thinner skullcap. They are therefore more sensitive to solar radiation.
What to do? The same applies here: get into the shade - and as quickly as possible. According to the BZgA, the head and upper body are best positioned slightly elevated. And of course: drink a lot. If the affected person loses consciousness, dial the emergency number 112, according to the advice of the DRK.
What are signs? If you notice a strong thirst and feel weak and exhausted, heat exhaustion can be the cause. If the skin is cold and damp and breathing is shallow and rapid, these are further symptoms according to the BZgA.
Heat exhaustion is also no joke. This is because heat stroke can develop. According to internist Schlaak, drowsiness and weakness are signs that you should definitely react to - also to prevent worse.
What to do? Even with heat exhaustion, it is best to go to a cooler place quickly and drink plenty of water. If the condition does not improve after an hour or if the body temperature rises above 38 degrees, it is advisable to have your condition checked by a doctor, according to the BZgA.
(This article was first published on Monday, July 18, 2022.)