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Sun Safety on the Great Barrier Reef: Part Two

By December 19, 2016September 26th, 2023Reef News & Info

Last week, we explored some simple methods to avoid getting sunburned while visiting the Far North. This week, we look at ways to avoid heat-related illnesses. Heat-related illnesses are due to environmental exposure to heat. These illnesses include minor conditions like heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Left unchecked, these symptoms can lead to a more severe condition known as heat stroke. Below are some descriptions of each condition so you can know the signs and symptoms. We’ve also outlined some important first-aid measures.


Heat Cramps:

Heat Cramps are muscle spasms that result from loss of large amount of salt and water through sweat. They are associated with cramping in the abdomen, arms and calves, and can range from mild to quite painful. Drinking water or sports drink will generally remedy heat cramps. Severe heat cramps are an indication that the person needs more minerals, particularly potassium. Those suffering from cramps can also eat potassium-rich foods like bananas and apples. When heat cramps occur, the person should avoid strenuous activities for several hours to give the muscles time to recover.

Signs & Symptoms: Mild to severe cramps in the abdomen, arms and calves

First Aid: water, sports drinks, rest



Heat Exhaustion:

Heat Exhaustion  occurs due to prolonged exposure to heat and sun and is life threatening. Early symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, dizziness, irritability, headache, and thirst. More severe symptoms include weakness, high body temperature, excessive sweating, and decreased urine output. Moreover, a person that has heat exhaustion should be treated by medical professionals. People helping those suspected of having heat exhaustion should move first move the person to a cool place. Secondly, cool the patient by fanning them and putting wet towels on their body. Having them drink water or sports drinks if they are awake, not confused or vomiting. Turn the person on their side if they are vomiting. Most importantly, do not leave them unattended.

Signs & Symptoms: nausea, dizziness, irritability, headache, thirst, weakness, high body temperature, excessive sweating, and decreased urine output.

First Aid: Ring emergency services, move the person to a cool, shady place. Give fluids if they are awake and not vomiting


Heat Stroke:

Heat stroke is prolonged exposure to heat and sun, and is defined as when the person has a body temperature of 40.6 °C (105.1 °F). This condition is a medical emergency, and you need to contact emergency services. Before a heat stroke occurs, people show signs of heat exhaustion such as dizziness, mental confusion, headaches, and weakness. People suffering from heat stroke need cooling as quickly as possible, through two methods. First, cool them passively by being moving them to shade and as much clothing removed as possible. Then, actively cool them with cool water or cloths applied to the skin. Hydration is important; if the person is able to drink without vomiting, sports drinks and water are acceptable. In some cases, hydration is only possible through an IV drip from emergency services.


Signs & Symptoms: Throbbing headache, dizziness and light-headedness, lack of sweating despite the heat, red, hot, and dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and rapid, shallow breathing

First Aid: Call 000 and ask for an Ambulance, place the casualty in a cool environment,moisten the skin with a moist cloth/washer and fan repeatedly, and apply wrapped ice packs toneck, groin and armpits


Read part one on sun safety here.