Summer is upon us! Pride celebrations, picnics, days at the beach – all under the beating sun. Heat related illnesses – heat exhaustion and heat stroke– are serious medical situations. Know the symptoms: Heat exhaustion could include some or all of the following: fatigue, nausea, headache, excessive thirst, muscle cramps, weakness, confusion or anxiety, drenching sweats, often accompanied by cold, clammy skin, slowed or weakened heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, or agitation.

Heat stroke can occur suddenly. If someone is experiencing heat stroke, it is an emergency. Call for immediate help. The symptoms of heat stroke can include some or all of the following: nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, fatigue, hot flushed dry skin, rapid heart rate, decreased sweating, shortness of breath, decreased urination, increased body temperature (104 degrees to 106 degrees F), confusion, delerium or loss of consciousness, convulsions.

If someone is suffering from any of the above symptoms, first Call for emergency help. If possible, move the person to a cool environment out of direct sun. Remove excessive clothing. Mist or sponge them and use a fan to help lower their body temperature. Use ice packs if available. Try to lower their body temperature below 102 degrees F. If the person is able and it is safe, provide a drink such as a sports drink that will help to rebalance their electrolytes.

Prevent heat related illnesses by following these simple steps:

• Stay hydrated. Make sure to replenish electrolytes. Choose a drink such as a sports drink that includes salts to replenish the salt lost to sweating.

• Use sunscreen and try to avoid getting sunburn. Sunburned skin is less able to protect your body from the heat.

• Take breaks from the sun. Seek some shade or air conditioning to take a few minutes and cool off just a bit.

• Wear light-weight clothing that wicks the sweat from your body.

• Avoid strenuous activity in the heat of the afternoon.

• Never stay in a closed car or leave someone else in a closed car.

• If you are taking medications that increase your sensitivity to sun, use extra caution. Pay close attention to your body’s reaction to the sun and seek shade or go indoors at the first sign of overexposure.

Stay cool and I hope to you are able to make it to the Frederick Pride Festival at the Carroll Creek Linear Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 24th. Stop by the Frederick County Health Department tent. We’ll be offering free, confidential, rapid HIV testing.

Liz Thompson, MSW, has been a case manager at the Frederick County Health Department for eight years.