Summer means fun in the sun, but watch for heat stroke!
- on June 21, 2011
Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia, an abnormally elevated body temperature with accompanying physical and neurological symptoms. Heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not properly and promptly treated.
The body normally generates heat as a result of metabolism, and is usually able to dissipate the heat by either radiation of heat through the skin or by evaporation of sweat. However, in extreme heat, high humidity, or vigorous physical exertion under the sun, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat and the body temperature rises, sometimes up to 106 F (41.1 C) or higher. Another cause of heat stroke is dehydration. A dehydrated person may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which causes the body temperature to rise.
Those most susceptible individuals to heart strokes include: infants, the elderly (especially those with heart diseases, lung diseases, and kidney diseases), athletes, and individuals who work outside and physically exert themselves under the sun.
Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. A person can experience symptoms of heat exhaustion before progressing to heat strokes. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps and aches, and dizziness. However, some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning. Common symptoms and signs of heat stroke include: high body temperature, the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, disorientation, seizure, and/or coma.
How do you help/treat a heat stroke victim? Victims of heat stroke must receive immediate treatment to avoid permanent organ damage. FIRST AND FOREMOST, COOL THE VICTIM. Get the person to a shady area, remove clothing, apply cool or tepid water to the skin. Spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose, fan the person to promote sweating and evaporation. Place ice packs under armpits and groin. Monitor body temperature with a thermometer, if possible, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101 to 102 F (38.3 to 38.8 C).
Always notify emergency services (911) immediately. If their arrival is delayed, they can give you further instructions for treatment of the victim.