Heat Stroke

With the warm weather approaching, now is the time to think of heat stroke and safety measures.  People and pets die yearly of heat stroke, this has been stated many times yet it bears repeating.  Never leave a child or pet in the car during hot weather. Even a window cracked open will not expel the heat fast enough.

Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature.  Sweating usually stops and the body’s temperature can rise to 106°F in ten minutes and sometimes may reach 112°F.  Death or permanent disability may result.  Children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses are the most susceptible yet it can happen to any of us if the combination of heat, activity, and hydration is wrong and exposure to sun is not necessary. Often early signs are ignored, such as loss of thirst or lack of perspiration believing this to be a good sign they are not overheated which is an error.

Symptoms of heat stroke are any of the following:

    ◊ Headache

    ◊ Confusion/hallucination

    ◊ Dizziness

    ◊ Slurred speech

    ◊ Chills

    ◊ Hot, dry skin

    ◊ Rarely profuse sweating

    ◊ Loss of consciousness

    If heat stroke is suspected call 911 immediately.  Move person to a cool place and loosen/remove clothing.  Soak person with cold water using a hose, shower, wet clothes, blankets, whatever is available. If they are able to swallow without choking you may give them water or sports drink, don’t force the drinking however as many people will only gag and/or vomit.

    Heat exhaustion is more common and less severe.  It is due to loss of water and salt caused by excessive sweating. The sweat response is still intact and other symptoms as follows:

    ◊ Heavy sweating

    ◊ Cool, clammy, moist skin

    ◊ Extreme weakness or fatigue

    ◊ Headache/confusion

    ◊ Dizziness/nausea

    ◊ Muscle cramps

    ◊ Normal or slightly elevated body temperature

    Move person to a cool place; loosen/remove clothes and wet skin. Have them drink plenty of water and take in salt or a sports drink.  Of course prevention is the best solution, so the elderly, young children and those with chronic illness should stay inside, in air conditioning when possible.  They should be encouraged to drink lots of water even though they are inside. Those on certain blood pressure medications/beta blockers such as Inderal and Toprol have a decreased ability to sweat so may never complain.

    If you are outside in the heat and active drink more water than you think you need.  Take in extra salt or use sports drinks.  Rest in the shade frequently don’t think because you are healthy and fit you are immune to heat stroke.  Please bring in pets when the temps hit 90°. Always provide them shade and cool water while outside.

-Dr. Duffy