Usually due to overheating, heat strokes occur. Body gets overheated due to prolonged exposure or physical exertion in high temperatures. If the body temperature rises above 104F than this most serious form of heat injury occurs. In the summer months this condition is very common. Emergency treatment is required in cases of heat strokes.
Heat stroke may occur due to:
- The body temperature may rise due to being in a hot environment. Most often this can occur in people with chronic illness and older adults.
- Heat stroke may occur due to intense physical activity.
- Heat can be prevented from evaporating by wearing excess clothes
- The body’s ability to regulate temperature is affected by drinking alcohol
- By dehydration
The signs and symptoms are:
- High body temperature is the main sign of heat stroke. Obtained with a rectal thermometer the body temperature is above 104F.
- Skin becomes hot and dry if heatstroke is due to hot weather and skin becomes slightly moist or dry if heat stroke is caused by strenuous exercise.
- Altered behaviour- there can be agitation, confusion, irritability, slurred speech, delirium, seizures. It can even result in coma.
- Heart beat may increase significantly
- Skin may turn red
- The person may feel nausea
- Shallow and rapid breathing.
The tests are:
- Rectal temperature- this helps to check the core body temperature. This is the most accurate method compare to the mouth or forehead temperatures.
- Blood test- this help to check in your blood the sodium, potassium and the gases content, to see if the central nervous system has been damaged.
- Urine test- usually the color of the urine in heatstroke is darker. This test is done to check the urine color and the kidney function.
- Muscle function tests- serious damage to the muscle tissue is checked by this test.
- X-rays and imaging tests- this is done to check whether the internal organs have been damaged.
- Heat stroke can damage brain and several other vital organs. Possibly the damage can be a permanent one.
- Heatstroke can be fatal without any prompt and adequate treatment.
- Wear clothes that are loose fitting and lightweight
- Protect your body from sunburn by wearing a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and using a sunscreen.
- Stay hydrated
- While taking certain medications, take extra precaution since they can affect the ability of body to dissipate heat and stay hydrated.
- During the hottest parts of the day, take it easy. Do not exert yourself
- In a parked car, do not leave your children. Among children this is a very common cause.
- Limit the time that you spend exercising or working.
The risk can be increased by several factors such as:
- Age- the strength of the central nervous system can determine the ability of the body to cope up with extreme heat. The central nervous system begins to deteriorate in adults above 65. In young and old age however the risk may increase due to the difficulty in remaining hydrated.
- Exerting in hot weather- risk may increase due to activities done in hot weather such as sports and military training.
- Lack of air conditioning- the most effective way to cool down is air conditioner; you may feel better by fans too.
- Sudden exposure to hot weather- sudden increase in temperature may make you susceptible to heat related illness.
- Certain medications- Be careful of medications that are vasoconstrictors, beta blockers, diuretics and antidepressants. You body may become vulnerable to heat stroke due to cocaine ad amephetamines.
- Lung disease may also increase the risk.
When to seek medication
When a person experiences heat stroke immediately seek medical help. While waiting for the emergency treatment, take immediate action to cool the body that is overheated.
- Get the person in shade
- Remove excess clothes
- By whatever means cool the person
Who’s at risk
Elderly people, younger children and pregnant women body does not cool off easily hence they are more at risk. Moreover, people taking certain medications and chronic illness are also at risk.
The main focus is cooling the body temperature. The steps followed are:
- To quickly lower the core body temperature the most effective way is a bath of cold or ice water. The risk of death is and organ damage is reduced by cold water immersion.
- If the above is not available the use an evaporation method to lower the temperature. Workers mist cool water on the body, and over you warm air is fanned. This causes evaporation of water.
- Wrap the body in a special cooling blanket and to your neck, groin, armpits and back apply ice packs.
- Muscle relaxant may be given by the doctor if the treatments make you shiver. Shivering makes the treatment less effective by making your body shiver.