Working or playing in hot temperatures can trigger a variety of medical emergencies.

Working or playing in hot temperatures can trigger a variety of medical emergencies.

Everyone is susceptible to heat related illnesses in a warm environment, even athletes in superb condition.

Heat illnesses occur when the body's own cooling mechanisms become overloaded.

During the dog days of summer, it is especially important to pay close attention to symptoms that could indicate a heat-related emergency and know how to treat them before they become critical.

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that occur when the body loses electrolytes like calcium and sodium.

These minerals are needed by the body to perform a variety of functions and are lost with water in perspiration. Heat cramps usually begin in the arms, legs or abdomen and often worsen without treatment.

Treatment is to rest in a cooler place, lightly stretch the affected muscle and drink water. If individuals suffering heat cramps are not treated, their condition could progress to heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion victims will perspire profusely and are most likely to be pale with a body temperature near normal (98.6 degrees).

Treatment involves resting in a cooler place, removing or loosening any tight-fitting clothing, and applying cool, wet cloths to exposed areas, especially the head.

If the person is conscious, give cool water to drink. Let the victim rest in a comfortable position and watch carefully for changes in his or her condition. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related injury. It occurs when the brain has lost its ability to send messages to the body to regulate temperature.

Those suffering from heat stroke have dry, hot, red skin, extreme confusion, a rapid, weak pulse, shallow breathing, temperatures as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and may lose consciousness. eat stroke victims need professional emergency care quickly.

Call 9-1-1 immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, have the person lie down in a cool place with their legs elevated. Loosen or remove sweat-soaked and tight-fitting clothing.

Apply cool cloths or ice packs to the armpits, wrists, ankles and groin. Offer cool water only when the person is fully conscious.

Remember, both people and pets can suffer a heat-related injury. Reduce the risk by following these tips:

* Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.

* Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity in the sun, particularly during the hottest part of the day.

* Drink plenty of water regularly. Hydration is especially important before and during any activity in hot temperatures. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drinks with caffeine or alcohol are not a substitute for water because they cause the body to lose more water than they contain.

* Do not leave children or pets in vehicles in warm temperatures, even if the windows are open.

* Make sure pets have plenty of water and areas of shade to which they can retreat.

Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.