Heat Related Illnesses
Being hot for too long can cause many illnesses, all grouped under the name hyperthermia: heat cramps, heat edema, heat syncope, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. In this post we will be discussing heat stroke.
Almost every summer there is a deadly heat wave in some part of the country. It is important for a person to get relief from the heat quickly. If not, they might begin to feel confused or faint. Their heart could become stressed, and maybe stop beating.
Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Doing too much on a hot day, or spending too much time in the sun, or staying too long in an overheated place can cause serious heat related illnesses.
Too much heat is not safe for anyone. Hundreds of people die from hyperthermia each year during very hot weather. Most are over 50 years old. The temperature outside or inside does not have to hit 100° F for you to be at risk for a heat related illness. Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Some people are at greater risk than others for heat related illnesses.
- Infants and children up to 4 years of age.
- Older people.
- People who are overweight.
- People who are ill or on certain medications.
- People who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.
Heat stroke, also called sun stroke, is the most serious heat related illness.
Heat stroke is a life threatening condition.
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly and emergency treatment is not provided.
Warning Signs of Heat Stroke
Warning signs can vary but may include:
- An extremely high body temperature – above 103°F, orally.
- Red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating, unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity.
- Strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse.
- Throbbing headache.
- Possible unconsciousness.
What You Should Do for a Heat Stroke Victim
* Call 911, or get the person to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
* Do not give the victim fluids to drink.
* Begin cooling the person rapidly by using whatever methods you can. For example:
- Move person to a cooler environment.
- Remove clothing.
- Try a cool bath, cool shower, or cool sponging.
- If the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
- Spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose.
- Use fans and air conditioners.
* Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101–102°F.
* If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
* Sometimes a victim’s muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.