What is Heat Stroke?
By Joan Whetzel
Hot summer days are great, especially when there’s a swimming hole nearby or a sprinkler to run through. What about a cold, sweet dish of ice cream? Or perhaps a slice of cold, crisp watermelon, it’s juice pouring from your chin, running down your arms to drip off your elbows is more to your taste. Anything to help those summer days seem less hot. No doubt about it; that summer heat can make a body downright uncomfortable. If left unchecked, the heat could lead to serious health problems, like a heat stroke, which is considered a medical emergency. This condition can become life threatening if not treated promptly and properly.
Heat Stroke Defined
Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, is a condition in which the body’s temperature is elevated well above normal, to levels of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). It is accompanied by physical symptoms that involve the nervous system and can even lead to death. Those most susceptible are athletes who workout on hot days, those who perform manual labor outdoors on extremely hot days, infants and children under the age of 4, the elderly, seriously overweight people, and anyone suffering from diseases of the heart, kidneys, and lungs or anyone taking diuretics (or any other medications that would make them more vulnerable to dehydration). During heat stroke, which is controlled by the brain, shuts down. When accompanied by inadequate fluid intake, it can quickly lead to damage of the brain and internal organs, and eventually to death.
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Symptoms
Heat stroke symptoms sometimes imitate other medical conditions like those of a heart attack. Of course some people feel the symptoms of heat exhaustion first, before progressing to the symptoms of a heat stroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, and dizziness. They should be taken as a warning before one’s condition progresses to that of a heat stroke. Signs of a Heat stroke include one or more of the following symptoms:
· Very high temperature (1050F or higher)
· Lack of sweating
· Hot red or dry, flushed skin
· Rapid pulse
· Blood pressure that is elevate or has dropped too low
· Labored breathing, or rapid shallow breathing
· Behaving strangely
· Confusion or disorientation
· Agitation or irritability
Heat Stroke Treatment
Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention in order to prevent permanent damage to the organs. Don’t hesitate to call 911 anytime you feel that you or another person is suffering from signs of a heat stroke. Better safe than sorry.
- First, the body temperature must be cooled quickly by moving them to a shady area or a building with air conditioning, removing clothing, applying cool water to the skin and using a fan to blow cooler air across their skin, running a garden hose to help them get wet, or placing ice packs around the groin or under the arm pits. Immersion into a cool or cold bath will also help bring down body temperature.
- Second, the person needs to take in fluids. If the person is conscious and responsive, let them drink cool fluids. Water is best, but other fluids will work as well as long as they contain no caffeine or alcohol, which act as diuretics.
- Temperature, blood pressure, pulse and mental state should be monitored frequently.
Heat Stroke Prevention
The best treatment for is prevention. There are several things a person can do to make sure the heat does not affect them to the point where they begin suffering the symptoms of heat stroke.
- Avoid strenuous activities when outdoors on days when the weather is extremely hot and humid.
- If you must be outdoors and be active, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
- Replace electrolytes lost through excessive sweating either with sports drinks, juices, or eating fruits.
- Take frequent breaks for rehydrating yourself and for finding someplace out of the sun to cool off.
- Wear clothing that is loose and light weight.
Medicine.net. Heat Stroke.
Mayo Clinic. Heat Stroke: First Aid.
Cunha, John P., DO, FACOEP. eMedicine Health. Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke.
WebMD. Heat Stroke: Symptoms and Treatment.