It is summertime – schools are out, weather is hot and it’s the time to enjoy the outdoors. But it is also the time for heat strokes.

 

How will you know that you have a heat related illness?

Muscle cramps are the first sign of an illness related to heat exposure. Look out for it if you are outdoors and are exposed to the sun and heat for long periods of time. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are two events related to excessive heat exposure.

 

What is a heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a a more serious type of heat related illness caused due to overheating of your body after being exposed to long periods of exposure to high temperatures.

 

Are there types of heat strokes?

Yes, heat stroke can be of two types –classical and exertional.

Classic heat stroke is due to exposure to heat in the environment and leads to an increase in our core temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit over several days. It mainly affects the elderly and those who have chronic diseases and can lead to delirium, convulsions and coma.

Exertional heat stroke affects active, young people. It develops rapidly over a few hours and is also associated with a high core temperature.

 

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

  • Abnormal changes in heart rate (arrhythmias)

  • Mental state changes like confusion, irritability, seizures, coma

  • Heart failure

  • Shock

  • Kidney failure

  • No sweating

  • Bleeding

  • Liver failure

Heat stroke usually requires treatment by trained medical personnel as it is a more serious condition.

 

What should I do when heat stroke occurs?

If you yourself have a heat stroke, you may not be able to help yourself as it is a serious condition. However, if you see a person affected by heat stroke, then follow these steps:

  • Move the person to a cool place

  • Call 911 or call for medical help

  • Cover the person with cool clothes or ice packs

  • Avoid giving any fluids to the affected person

 

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a milder version of a heat related illness compared to heat stroke and is more common.

 

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

  • Sweating profusely

  • Cold, pale skin

  • Weak and fast pulse rate

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Feeling faint

  • Dizziness

  • Thirst

  • Feeling weak

  • Headache

  • Malaise

Heat exhaustion usually improves within a few hours.

 

What can you do?

  • Move to a cool place or indoors

  • Wear loose clothing or loosen your clothing

  • Apply ice or cool packs to your body

  • Sip water continuously to prevent dehydration

 

How can you prevent heat exhaustion / heat stroke?

  • In summer, wear loose and light clothes, and maintain hydration by drinking plenty of fluids.

  • If you are an athlete or plan to perform an exertional activity, then practice for a few days in hot conditions to acclimatize.

  • If you are above age 65, then you may be more prone to heat related conditions. If you do not have air conditioning at home then visit places which are likely to be cool like the local community center or museum while maintaining hydration.  

 

References

https://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0601/p2133.html