Iowa Specialty Hospital

Avoiding Heat Stroke During the Summer

June 4, 2018

The first official day of summer is only days away, and temperatures will only continue to rise. So let’s take a look at heat stroke symptoms and prevention to keep you and your loved ones safe. 

Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures -- usually in combination with dehydration -- which leads to failure of the body's temperature control system. Heat stroke often occurs as a progression from milder heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), and heat exhaustion. But it can strike even if you have no previous signs of heat injury. 

Symptoms of heat stroke include: 
•    Core body temperature above 104° Fahrenheit
•    Fainting
•    Throbbing headache
•    Dizziness and light-headedness
•    Lack of sweating despite the heat 
•    Red, hot, and dry skin 
•    Muscle weakness or cramps 
•    Nausea and vomiting 
•    Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
•    Rapid, shallow breathing
•    Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
•    Seizures 
•    Unconsciousness

If you suspect that someone has had a heat stroke, call 911 immediately.  While waiting for EMTs to arrive try these cooling strategies if possible:

•    Fan air over the individual while wetting his or her skin with water
•    Apply ice packs to their armpits, groin, neck, and back. These areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin so cooling them may reduce body temperature.
•    Immerse the person in a shower or tub of cool water.

Heat stroke is most likely to affect older people who live in apartments or homes lacking air conditioning or good airflow. It also affects infants and children up to age 4. Both younger and older individuals are vulnerable because they adjust to heat more slowly. Other high-risk groups include people of any age who don’t drink enough water, have chronic diseases, or who drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Certain health conditions and medications can also make an individual more susceptible. 

The best option for preventing heat stroke is to stay in an air-conditioned environment.  If you most go outdoors, follow these tips:

•    Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide brimmed hat.
•    Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.
•    Drink extra fluids to avoid dehydration. During extreme heat and humidity, it might be advisable to include electrolyte-rich drinks as well.
•    Take precautions when exercising and working outdoors.  Drink 24 oz of fluid two hours before exercise and add another 8 oz directly before, along with another 8 oz of water every 20 minutes during exercise, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
•    Reschedule or cancel outdoor activities.  Try to aim activities for the coolest times of the day.

Prevention is always the best choice, but if you have suffered a heat stroke, you may be more sensitive during the weeks that follow.  It’s best to avoid hot weather and heavy exercise until your provider tells you it’s safe to resume your normal activities. 


Resource: WedMD


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