Heat Stroke: Symptoms and Treatment
Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury, and is a medical emergency. If you suspect that someone has heat stroke -- also known as sunstroke -- you should call 911 immediately and render first aid until paramedics arrive.
Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes.
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. Common symptoms include nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation, and sometimes loss of consciousness or coma.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
The hallmark symptom of heat stroke is a core body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. But fainting may be the first sign.
Other symptoms may include:
· 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
First Aid for Heat Stroke
If you suspect that someone has a heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.
Move the person to an air-conditioned environment -- or at least a cool, shady area -- and remove any unnecessary clothing.
You may also try these cooling strategies:
· Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.
· Apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
· Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.
How can Heat Stroke be prevented?
· The most important measures to prevent heat strokes are to avoid becoming dehydrated and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather.
· If you have to perform physical activities in hot weather, drink plenty of fluids (such as water and sports drinks), but avoid alcohol, caffeine (including soft drinks and tea), and tea which may lead to dehydration.
· Your body will need replenishment of electrolytes (such as sodium) as well as fluids if you sweat excessively or perform vigorous activity in the sunlight for prolonged periods.
· Take frequent breaks to hydrate yourself. Wear hats and light-colored, lightweight, loose clothes.
· Keep cars locked when not in use and never, ever, leave infants or children unattended in a locked car.