(06/29/2012)
Important Information on Heat Stroke

Submitted by Barbara McKown

With temperatures rising as the summer month's progress, Minnie Hamilton Health System would like to share tips on recognizing and treating heat stroke. First, what is heat stroke? Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia wherein the body temperature is elevated with accompanying physical symptoms of changes in the nervous system function.

In extreme heat, high humidity or vigorous physical exertion under the sun, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat and the body temperature may rise up to 106F or higher. A dehydrated person may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which will also cause the body temperature to rise. Those most at risk of developing heat stroke are infants, elderly, athletes and outdoor workers.

Heat stroke symptoms can often mimic a heart attack. Typical symptoms of heat stroke include high body temperature, absence of sweating (with hot red or flushed dry skin), rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, disorientation, seizure and/or coma. If you believe someone is experiencing heat stroke, there are several important steps to take. First, call 911 as heat stroke is a medical emergency that can be fatal if not treated promptly and properly.

Next, move the victim to a shady area and remove clothing. Apply cool or tepid water to the skin, fanning to promote sweating and evaporation. Place ice packs under the armpits and groin area. Give the victim plenty of cool fluids, preferably water or other beverages (avoid alcohol) and continue to monitor the body temperature until emergency services arrive.

There are steps that can be taken to avoid heat stroke. First, avoid becoming dehydrated and avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids but avoid alcohol, caffeine and tea which may lead to dehydration.

Always make the effort to replenish electrolytes if you sweat excessively or perform rigorous activity in the sunlight for prolonged periods. Take frequent breaks to hydrate yourself and wear hats and light-colored, lightweight and loose clothes. Please make sure to follow these simple steps to enjoy a fun and safe summer.


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