Heat stroke is one of the most common summertime health emergencies. Heat stroke is caused by extensive exposure to high temperatures and is characterized by your core body temperature rising above 105°F. Typically, heat stroke occurs after milder heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion goes untreated. It is also possible to experience heat stroke without any build up from less serious heat illnesses. Athletes and adults over 50 years old can be more likely to experience heat stroke.
Heat stroke can lead to serious damage to your internal organs and your brain, and in extreme cases can be fatal. Instead of waiting until the height of summer temperature levels, let’s talk about heat stroke now. Learn what the symptoms are, as well as how to treat and prevent heat stroke so that you can enjoy a safe and healthy summer.
Heat Stroke Symptoms
The two main factors that contribute to heat stroke are prolonged heat exposure and dehydration. Symptoms may include:
Fainting or unconsciousness
Heavy fatigue or lethargy
Red and hot skin
Absence or ceasing of sweat
Increased heart rate
Fast, short breathing
Treating Heat Stroke
Severe heat stroke can be potentially fatal, so it is very important that you know what to do if you or if someone you are with has heat stroke. If it is yourself, tell someone right away what you need in case you feel too ill to give directions later. Here is what you need to know about responding to heat stroke.
If you suspect you may have heat stroke, call 911 right away or get a ride to the hospital. The most important thing is that you receive medical attention immediately. While waiting for or getting to medical attention, do everything you can to cool down.
Cool Down Methods
Change the location to the shade or an air-conditioned car or room.
Use water or damp fabric to wet the skin.
Fan air over the face, neck and body to help bring the temperature down to at least 101°F.
Press an ice pack to the back of the neck, underarms, back, or groin.
Submerge body in a shower filled with cool water.
Heat Stroke Prevention
Pay attention to heat waves in your area, as well as daily heat index. On days with higher temperatures, plan to stay inside and stay cool during peak heat hours. Of course, this can be easier said than done. When you need to leave the house or leave air-conditioned spaces to go outside, take the best precautions against heat stroke.
Don’t be shy to communicate with your friends, family, coworkers or sports teams about scheduling outdoor events or plans to either more shaded locations, indoor locations or to cooler times of day.
Drink more liquids to make sure your body is hydrated. Get your minimum 8 glasses of liquids but do make sure it isn’t only water. Your body needs liquids that contain electrolytes and salt as well. Sport drinks, tomato juice, fruit juice and coconut water are all beverages you can incorporate into your daily liquid intake along with water.
Dress in light, breathable layers. Choose loose clothing in light colors and fabrics (such as linen or cotton), and wear a wide-brimmed hat.
Always wear a broadband UVA/UVB sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, and reapply every couple hours, after swimming, or after heavy exercise.
Adjust according to your activity. If you are working or exercising outdoors, you need to consume even more liquids than normal. Drink lots of water before any exercise, continue to drink water every half hour during activity, and drink a sports drinks with electrolytes afterwards.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration and aggravate heat stroke further.
If you experience heat stroke, do give yourself about a week (unless otherwise advised by your doctor) to fully recover. During that week, keep out of hot temperatures and tone down any exercise. If you know that you are sensitive to heat, and you have any health conditions that require you to take medication, do talk to your doctor about how to manage your condition in the warmer months.
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