Heatstroke

Summertime is the perfect time for barbecues with your family, playing outside with your kids, and working in the garden. However, with the warm temperatures also come potential dangers. Heatstroke occurs when your body overheats, typically due to exertion or spending extended periods of time in high temperatures. Heatstroke requires emergency treatment, as it can cause serious damage to your brain, kidneys, muscles and heart, and it can even lead to death.

Symptoms

The most significant sign of heatstroke is a core body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). If you have heatstroke, your head may throb, you may experience nausea, vomit, have flushed skin, have rapid, shallow breathing, and have a fast heart rate. If your heatstroke is caused by exposure to high temperatures, your skin will feel hot and dry when you touch it. If your heatstroke is due to physical activity in the heat, your skin may feel slightly moist or dry. You may also experience mental status and behavioral changes if you develop heatstroke, such as confusion, irritability, agitation, slurred speech, seizures, delirium, and coma.

Treatment

If you experience any of the signs of heatstroke, it’s vital that you seek emergency medical treatment, as the condition can cause serious damage to your kidneys, muscles, heart, and brain. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the worse the damage can get. Heatstroke can even lead to coma or death.

While you wait for emergency medical help to arrive, get yourself indoors or into the shade, and remove any excess clothing. Cool yourself with whatever means you have. Sit in a cool tub or shower, spray yourself off with a hose, sponge yourself off with cool water, or put cool, wet towels or ice packs on your head, neck, groin, and armpits.

Risk Factors

Young children and adults 65 years of age and older are at increased risk for developing heatstroke. Physically exerting yourself in hot weather also increases your chance of developing heatstroke. Heatstroke is commonly seen in those participating in military training or competing in sports like long-distance running and football in the heat. You are more likely to develop heatstroke if you take certain medications, such as beta blockers, vasoconstrictors, diuretics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and stimulants utilized in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Certain medical conditions, such as lung and heart conditions, also put you at greater risk for heatstroke.

Prevention

There are many things you can do to prevent heatstroke. When it’s hot, wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water, and avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day if you’re at higher risk of developing heatstroke. Don’t ever leave someone in your parked car in warm or hot weather, even if the car is parked in the shade and the windows are cracked.

Summer provides numerous opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Being mindful of your body’s reaction to heat and taking steps to prevent heatstroke will allow you to safely enjoy the summer weather with your family and friends.