If summertime activity makes you gasp for breath and your heart pound, STOP what you’re doing.

Get into a cooler area and REST. Your very survival may be at risk

What’s happening is that your blood temperature is starting to rise above 98.6 degrees you literally are overheating.

Sweating isn’t cooling off your body fast enough.

Or, you’ve already lost more fluid and sodium than your body can handle, yet maintain a healthy chemical balance

Rising blood temperature is the “on” switch for panting. The labored breathing, in turn, helps cue the heart to begin pumping more blood These are warning signals. If you ignore them, you’ll be pushing your body to the point of illness perhaps even death.

If you’re the one developing trouble, though, you may not notice a third warning: Your skin may be flushed. In this case, getting very red in the face is a sign that your body is taking extreme measures.

The heart’s pumping action makes the blood vessels dilate, so the ones near the skin surface can shed more heat.

That chain reaction is what makes skin redden, not air temperature or level of physical activity.

A sunburn can mask flushing. Even when it doesn’t, a sunburn will significantly retard the body’s ability to shed excess heat.

Hot weather, high humidity, physical activity, physical condition and clothing also can slow or overwhelm the body’s attempts to cool itself.

People who push themselves athletically get used to the chain reaction. For them, it may

be a year-round thing. They may believe that they’ll never override their body’s ability to cool itself. After all, they’ve survived before. They’re in good shape. They chug down sports drinks and dress for the weather. They’re outdoors all the time, too, so gradually get used to the seasonal changes in temperature.

But that confidence can actually increase their hot-weather risks as we’ve seen in football players who’ve died during summer practice.

Athletes must stay focused on their body, as well as the task at hand. Breathing hard is not gasping. A safe aerobic heart rate isn’t a pounding heart rate. In extreme conditions, progressing into heat stroke can be a matter of minutes.

The quickly developing symptoms can include: dry skin, high body temperature (above 105), rapid pulse, lethargy, disorientation, delirium, coma.

That’s why heat stroke often is fatal even with rapid first aid or medical care to reduce

the body’s burning, fever-like temperature as quickly as possible. That’s also why children can die so quickly if you leave them in a locked car. 

Danger Signals

When conditions are less extreme, however, ignoring the body’s

warning signs can still be lethal. Heat-related illness can build over time.

That’s why elderly people sometimes die after surviving for days without air conditioning during a heat wave.

The same kind of buildup can occur outdoors during a single afternoon if people ignore early warning signs and developing symptoms or if they receive treatment, but return too soon to being physically active.

The onset of actual heat-related illness often is painful muscle cramps or spasms, typically in legs or stomach.

They’re symptoms that your body’s extreme measures aren’t quite measuring up. So, you need to bring down your body heat with cooler air at least out of direct sunlight and perhaps with cool, wet cloths. You need to make a conscious effort to replace fluids. Pressure, gentle massage or stretching may help relieve the muscle spasms, but you should continue resting until all symptoms are gone. Some people never develop cramps. Instead, they increasingly develop symptoms of the next and more dangerous stage of heat-related illness heat exhaustion. They have some or all of these signals:

— Feeling dizzy, nauseated, tired and/or weak.

— Headache often throbbing.

— Profuse sweating and cold, clammy skin.

— Skin that either remains flush or becomes very pale.

As the symptoms step up, the first aid should, too. People with heat exhaustion need to be resting under air conditioning, if at all possible. Unless doing so makes them ill, they should be sipping water.

A cool bath or sponge bath will help them recover even faster, as will loosening their tight clothing and removing sweat-soaked clothes.

Heat exhaustion is serious. I

In fact, it’s a major reason why the buddy system can be so important for people who are housebound or involved in outdoor activities during summer.

You’re often not in the best position to monitor your own symptoms and decide whether to call an ambulance. For example, vomiting is one danger sign that also helps you dehydrate faster, and continued vomiting or refusing to drink can push you into heat stroke. Another signal that you may be getting worse is that you start to lose consciousness and thus are unable to dial 9-1-1. The extreme danger point has arrived when someone who’s still suffering from heat- nrelated illness stops perspiring which causes the hot, dry, red skin typical of heat stroke. This is a medical emergency, and the time required to get good medical care may matter most. While waiting for the ambulance, however, soaking with a hose, water bucket or cool bath to get the person’s temperature down as quickly as possible may help.