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Overexposure to heat or cold can make a person seriously ill. In this section we will cover heat-related emergencies such as: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. We will also cover cold-related emergencies such as: frostbite and hypothermia.
This is the least severe of the heat-related emergencies. Normally cramps are caused by too much exercise. Once a person has rested and feels better they can carefully resume exercise. Stretching and icing the painful muscles may help.
If this condition is not treated, it can lead to a heat stroke. Heat exhaustion may occur if a person is in the heat for a long period of time or is sweating a lot. It often affects athletes, firefighters, construction workers, and factory workers, and those who wear heavy clothing in hot and humid environments.
This is the least common but the most severe heat-related emergency. It develops when the body system is overwhelmed by heat and begins to stop functioning.
Frostbite occurs when a part of your body is exposed to extreme cold. It typically affects the fingers, nose, ears and toes. Severity of this injury depends on the temperature, length of exposure and wind. In the most severe of cases, frostbite can lead to a loss of the affected body part. Remember, do not rub the frostbitten area.
Hypothermia is when the entire body cools because its ability to keep warm fails. This condition is severe and can lead to death. The temperature does not have to be below freezing to develop hypothermia. If a person stops to shiver, this is a sign of further deterioration. Shivering stops when the body temperature is very low.