Heat Stroke, Heat Exhaustion, Sun Poisoning Symptoms and Treatment Amid Historic Heat Wave

The National Weather Service has urged people to stay safe amid an "historic" heat wave in the western U.S., as excessive heat warnings are in place in most parts of the northwest, the Northern Great Basin, parts of western Nevada and interior California.

Extreme heat can affect different age groups differently, according to the National Weather Service, with those who are pregnant, newborns, children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses being the most vulnerable. It can cause conditions including heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

In its short range forecast on Monday morning, the National Weather Service said "record-shattering" heat was forecast across the northwest. The hottest temperatures were forecast in the Pacific Northwest, with Washington and north-central Oregon likely to hit between 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (F). The hottest days since records started in the 1940s were expected in locations including Seattle and Portland.

In the northeast, higher than average temperatures were due to cause "oppressive heat" early in the week.

The National Weather Service tweeted on Sunday: "A historic heat wave will continue to grip the Western U.S. While everyone is at risk from the dangers of extreme heat, but these groups are more vulnerable than most. Ensure that your loved ones and neighbors are safe from the heat and remain."

A historic heat wave will continue to grip the Western U.S. While everyone is at risk from the dangers of extreme heat, but these groups are more vulnerable than most. Ensure that your loved ones and neighbors are safe from the heat and remain #WeatherReady. pic.twitter.com/OcpT3eCgAp

— National Weather Service (@NWS) June 27, 2021

In the National Weather Service's forecast, people in locations affected by the heat were "urged to stay in air-conditioned buildings, avoid strenuous outdoor activities, drink plenty of water, and check on family members/neighbors."

Amid the intense heat, searches for terms including sun poisoning, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion spiked in the U.S. in the past week, according to Google Trends.

What are the symptoms of sun poisoning, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, and how are they treated?

According to the CDC, heat stroke is the most serious type of illness that can be caused by heat and can be fatal if untreated. It happens when the body can no longer control its temperature, leading it to spike. Heat stroke can make a person feel confused and slur their speech, lose consciousness, have hot skin, a high body temperature, sweat profusely, and suffer seizures.

If a person appears to be suffering from heat stroke, the CDC advises calling 911, moving them to a cool area and taking off their outer clothing. Cooling them with cold water or ice is also recommended, as well as placing wet cloths or ice on their head, neck, armpits, and groin. Do not give them anything to drink.

Sun poisoning is a term used to describe severe sunburn, and can cause symptoms including skin that is red, blistered, painful and tingling, and or swollen. A person can also suffer from headache, fever and chills, nausea, dizziness, and dehydration.

To treat sun poisoning, WebMD recommends getting out of the sun, taking a cool shower or putting cool compresses on the body, drinking plenty of fluids, and applying aloe gel or moisturizer to affected areas. Drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be taken to help any pain, and clothing should cover sunburned areas when going outdoors.

You should seek medical help if the sunburn blisters, is very painful, and or is on a large area of the body; if you experience fever and chills; stomach problems; your face swells; you have a headache, feel confused or faint; and or are dehydrated.

Heat exhaustion is where the body loses a lot of water and salt, often due to excessive sweating. Similarly to other heat-related conditions, symptoms include headache, nausea, feeling weak, dizziness, irritability, feeling thirsty, a high body temperature, heavy sweating, as well as peeing less often than normal.

If you have heat exhaustion, try to go to a cooler area, loosen your clothes, and sip water. The CDC also advises putting wet cloths on the body or taking a cool bath. Seek medical help if you are being sick, your symptoms worsen, or last for more than one hour.

heat wave, stock, getty
A stock image shows a person struggling in the heat. Parts of the U.S. are in the grip of a heat wave. Getty Images