During the summer months, anyone who is regularly active outdoors is at risk of heat stroke. Heat stroke is not just feeling “too hot”, it’s a serious medical condition which occurs when the body’s thermoregulatory functions stop working properly and can result in death if not treated immediately.
Who is at Risk of Heat Stroke?
Although anyone can get heat stroke, certain groups are more susceptible than others. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. People of any age who become dehydrated are at risk of heat stroke, as are athletes, construction workers, or anyone engaging in strenuous activity outdoors during hot weather. If you work outside or live in a particularly hot climate, you can prevent heat stroke by seeking shade during hot weather, drinking plenty of water, wearing loose, light clothing, and taking frequent breaks if exercising or engaging in strenuous activity. Spend time in a cool place to avoid overusing and stopping your body’s sweating reflex. An Austin HVAC expert from Covenant Air Conditioning and Heating advises running the air conditioning in your home whenever the outside temperature exceeds 80 degrees. This will give your thermoregulatory system a chance to rest and recharge when the heat rises outside, so it will be fully functional when you need to cool down again.
What are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is defined by a core body temperature of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, accompanied by a lack of sweating. Other symptoms that may manifest include dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and hot, flushed skin. In more serious cases, symptoms can include confusion, seizures, and unconsciousness.
How to Treat Heat Stroke
As heat stroke is a potentially fatal condition, it is very important to get medical attention for the patient as quickly as possible. If no medical help is readily available, you can initiate cooling by taking these steps:
- Move the patient to a cool, shady area
- Remove any clothing that could be preventing cooling
- Fan the patient, or use air conditioning, if possible
- Cool the patient by placing ice packs or cold compresses on the patient’s neck, back, groin, and armpits.
- Put the patient in a tub of cool (not cold—cold water could shock their system) water, taking care to keep the patient’s head above water if the patient is unconscious
While taking these steps, call a doctor and ask what should be done. Better yet, take the patient to the nearest medical care facility to receive professional treatment. The good news is that heat stroke is very rarely fatal if treated in a timely manner, and it can be prevented with some easy, common-sense measures. Learn to recognize and treat the symptoms of heat stroke, and you will stay cool and safe.