Dealing With Heat Stroke
With summer in full swing, the potential for getting heat stroke is a very real possibility, but most of us don’t know what to look for until it is too late. We would like to welcome Dr. David Jury, MD from the Cleveland Clinic who will give us his expertise in understanding the signs and treatment for dealing with heat stroke and some of the ways to avoid the condition before if can be life threatening.
Dr. Jury: As the name implies, heatstroke is a very severe heat-related problem. It is more dangerous than other heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, because you can actually die from this condition. About 400 people in the United States die each year from this. What happens is people think heatstroke is directly related to being out in the sun – which is possible – but it can also occur working anywhere there is increased temperature that your body cannot regulate: a factory, in your attic, working out in the gym, or even around the garage. A heat stroke takes рlace when the body іѕ unable tο control іtѕ internal temperature.
Dr. Jury: The main cause is not having enough fluids in your body to keep your core temperature down. What makes heatstroke severe and potentially life-threatening is that the body’s normal mechanisms for dealing with heat stress, such as sweating and temperature control, are inadequate. Infants, children, older adults, the obese and people born with an impaired ability to sweat are at the highest risk of heatstroke. However, if your are drinking alcohol, you dehydrate, have cardiovascular disease or on certain other medications, you can be at risk, as well. When your fluids run out of your body and you don’t replenish them to keep your core temperature down, a heatstroke can occur.
Dr. Jury: The main sign of heatstroke is a high temperature. This can be as high as 105ºF, which is certainly dangerous. There can also be changes in a person’s mental status which can range from personality changes to confusion or coma. This all comes from the elevated internal temperature. If you check the skin, it may be hot and dry, from lack of fluids, or – if the person was physically working in the heat, you may find the skin extremely moist from sweat. If you recognize any of these serious conditions, call 9-1-1 immediately and try to reduce the temperature while waiting for the ambulance.
Dr. Jury: Symptoms that can occur prior to heatstroke can be: A rapid heartbeat; you might have fast and shallow breathing; blood pressure can increase or, suddenly drop; and, as I stated, there might be some mood changes. Look for irrational irritability, confusion or unconsciousness. When you personally are feeling overheated, take a look if you have increased sweating, light headedness, a headache, nausea, or feel like you are going to faint. That’s the time to stop and do something about this.
Dr. Jury: This is pretty simple. Get out of the sun or heat and move to a cooler location. Sit down and slowly drink some cool water. If you can get into air conditioning or an area with a fan – do so. If this is unavailable, get into the shade and fan yourself or the person with a newspaper or something similar. Placing damp cloths on the forehead and exposed skin or spray cool water on the person. You can immerse the person in cold water, as well. It’s all about lowering the core body temperature. Once again, if you see a person collapse or go unconscious or start to speak incoherently, you should immediately call 911 or emergency help, then start to try and cool them down. Under no circumstances should you drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages in this condition. Also, if the person is unconscious, never try and force liquid down their throats. This can cause more harm than good. It is better to just apply or spray cool water on them.
— I’d like to thank Dr. David Jury for offering this insight on what to do if you suspect you or someone you know has heatstroke. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here and we will try and get an answer for you.