If you live somewhere that gets really hot in the summer, chances are, you’ve heard of heatstroke. Heatstroke affects millions around the world and can happen to anyone. Typically, heat stroke is an emergency; those who suffer from it often need to be taken to the hospital. Here’s how to detect signs of heatstroke and prevent the situation from escalating further:
What is Heat Stroke?
Heatstroke is the body’s reaction to overheating. When someone is exposed to a hot environment for too long, or if someone physically overexerts themselves in a hot environment, their body temperature rises, which can cause heat exhaustion. When the body hits over 104⸰F, heatstroke occurs. Untreated heatstroke can lead to organ failure, brain damage, and even death.
How can I Prevent Heat Stroke?
Fortunately, heatstroke is preventable. To prevent heatstroke, dress for the weather. If it’s hot, wear shorts and a light shirt, or clothing that is loose and breathable. Cover any exposed skin with sunscreen to avoid sunburn, and make sure you have water or a sports drink on hand when you go out. Avoid places that may be warmer than outside, like cars without air conditioning, and avoid drinking hot drinks that may raise your body temperature or alcohol, which can prevent sweating.
What are the Most Common Symptoms?
The best way to prevent heatstroke is by recognizing the symptoms that come with heat exhaustion. Since most heat exhaustion symptoms accompany heat stroke, get someplace cool immediately if you experience any symptoms.
Heat exhaustion has many symptoms, and some people may not experience all of them. Symptoms include:
- High body temperature (like a fever): heat stroke is always accompanied by a fever.
- Nausea or vomiting: someone with heatstroke may feel sick to their stomach.
- Throbbing headaches: these headaches pulse around your temples, eyes, and prefrontal cortex, but can occur around other parts of the head as well.
- Dizziness: this typically comes with dehydration or high body temperature. If someone is dizzy, it is an important sign to check for other symptoms.
- Dehydration: when the body sweats, it loses water. Someone experiencing heat exhaustion may feel incredibly thirsty.
- Racing heart rate: During heat exhaustion, the heart pumps oxygen to as many parts of the body as it can to cool it down, increasing heart rate.
- Rapid breathing: Just like increased heart rate, quick, shallow breathing is an attempt to help cool the body down and take in more oxygen.
- Lethargy (tiredness): while this symptom is less noticeable, it can occur in some people, especially if they have been exerting themselves in the heat. Typically, dizziness accompanies lethargy.
- Red or clammy skin: as body temperature rises, the skin will become clammy and flushed, especially around the face and hands.
If someone is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention.
How Can I Treat Heat Stroke?
In the case of heatstroke, it is best to call an ambulance or seek professional medical help. Heat exhaustion, however, can be treated from the home. The first thing you’ll need to do is cool the body down. To do this, get them somewhere away from the heat source. Typically, indoors is best, since heatstroke is mostly caused by outside exposure to heat. With the person’s consent, remove any excess layers of clothing, like sweaters, hoodies, shoes, and hats. Help them lie down and elevate their feet. This will get the blood flowing towards the heart.
Then, make sure they hydrate by drinking plenty of water and other fluids. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate the body, so it may be best to skip out on the iced coffee or beer if one is prone to losing a lot of fluid.
For further aid, cold temperature therapy can help reduce symptoms of heat exhaustion. Using a cold compress, an ice pack, or spraying them with cold water can help. Make sure you do not take their drinking water!
If symptoms persist and the body temperature doesn’t drop within thirty minutes, call an ambulance immediately. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion can be serious!
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