Preventing Heatstroke This Summer

Preventing Heatstroke This Summer

Today it seems that heat waves are happening more frequently, bringing extreme temperatures to huge parts of the country, year after year. According to the CDC, from 1999 – 2003, a total of 3,442 deaths resulting from exposure to extreme heat were reported. Extreme temperatures can affect us all, from young to old, and cause significant health problems and even death in some people. It’s extremely important to keep cool during periods of extreme heat to prevent heatstroke and other health problems related to this condition. So what are the warning signs of heatstroke and how can it be prevented?

The Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke

Heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by participating in strenuous physical activity in hot and humid conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, you are considered to have heatstroke when your body temperature reaches 104 F or higher. You are at greater risk of developing heatstroke if you have certain health problems or take particular medications. Your age also affects your likelihood of developing heatstroke, the young and the elderly are more likely to develop it.

Typical signs and symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • A temperature of 104 F or higher
  • Hot and dry skin, sufferers often don’t sweat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin may appear flushed
  • Rapid breathing and racing heart rate
  • A throbbing headache
  • Confusion, hallucinations or seizures
  • Muscle cramps and weakness

Heatstroke may lead to unconsciousness in severe cases; it’s important that it’s treated early on if any signs or symptoms are evident. Douglas Casa, director of athletic training at the University of Connecticut, has experienced incidences of heatstroke before with many of his athletes and states that a body temperature of 105 F for more than 30 minutes can be fatal. It’s therefore incredibly important to treat heatstroke as soon as possible, to prevent serious health complications.

Prevention and Treatment of Heatstroke

It’s important to understand how to prevent heatstroke, as well as how to treat it if it happens. During warm spells, make sure you are always properly hydrated, especially if you are working outside for prolonged periods. Our bodies need 2-3 liters of water each day to replace the water we lose through perspiration. If you are exercising outside during hot periods, take it easy and allow yourself time to acclimatize to the hot weather by increasing the amount of exercise you do each day. It’s best to wear light-colored, loose fabrics, and to avoid being outside during the hottest parts of the day. Cool baths and showers can also help to regulate your body temperature throughout the day.

If you suspect someone to be suffering from heatstroke, call 911 immediately. Move the person to a cool place and remove their clothing or soak it with cool water, this will help to conduct heat away from the body more efficiently than dry clothing. Alternatively, you can place the patient in a bath of iced water until the ambulance arrives or apply ice packs to the groin, neck, back, and armpits.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc