Summer has reached its peak; although, the season has yet to reach the midway point to fall. Summer is a fun time and filled with camping trips, endless battles with mosquitoes, vacations, and the inescapably piercing heat. Unfortunately, the heat can be one of the deadliest parts of the season, and heat stroke affects the lives of thousands each year. Also, the elderly are at an increased risk for heat stroke during the heat. However, recognizing the symptoms of heatstroke, understanding how it’s treated, and working to prevent it from occurring remain the most important things you need to know about this summer.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
Typically, heat stroke occurs after heat-related illness, or heat exhaustion has set in. The most common symptoms of heat exhaustion include the following:
- Cool, moist skin
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathes
- Muscle cramping
- Slight rise in body temperature, but less than 99 F.
Heat stroke reaches a point of no return as the body becomes unable to cool itself through perspiration, exhalation, and exothermic body processes. At 103 F, the body loses its ability to sweat, and the body temperature continues to rise. At 106 F, heat stroke occurs, and its effects can be life-threatening.
If you notice anyone showing any of the symptoms of heatstroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. While awaiting the arrival of EMS, follow these steps:
- Give the victim cool water. Do not give ice-cold water, or anything containing alcohol.
- Spray the person’s skin with cold water. If ice water is used, do not place the victim in the tub for more than five minute. Mist the body with cool water, and use a fan to blow warm air over the victim.
- IF AND ONLY IF EMS IS UNABLE TO REACH YOU WITHIN 30 MINUTES, place the victim in a cool tub of water. After taking the victim out of the water, which should last no more than 10-15 minutes, wrap the victim in a warm towel. Ice water causes the body to shiver, which will further increase body temperature. The warm towel will help reduce shivering and allow the body to cool safely.
Preventing Heat stroke
Prevention is very simple and focuses on staying cool and hydrated. While spending time outdoors, a person should consume two to four cups of water every hour while working and exercising. Additionally, the following actions can help prevent a heatstroke.
- Do not drink alcoholic, sugar-rich, or caffeinated drinks.
- If you do not have access to an AC, you need to relocate to a cooler area. A fan will not provide enough relief in temperatures nearing the century mark.
- Take a cool, not ice-cold, shower.
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing.
- Stay in the shade.
- DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU FEEL THIRSTY TO DRINK WATER!
When heat exhaustion occurs, or goes untreated, it can result in severe brain injury, kidney problems, liver damage, and other organ problems. The only defense against heat stroke is education.
By the way, if you have any elderly neighbors, or neighbors who live alone, check on them during the day. You could save their life from the heat as well.