Normally the human body is able to cool itself down through sweating but when temperatures reach 80-90o or higher this may not be enough. At these temperatures along with increased sensitivity due to age, physical exertion, or other factors the body may not be able to cool itself down fast enough placing a person at risk for heatstroke. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion since heatstroke can lead to serious complications. Continue reading to learn what to look for, what to do, and when to seek medical attention.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:
- Headache, dizziness
- Fainting or weakness
- Thirst, nausea, or vomiting
- Heat stroke – extreme heat exhaustion characterized by cessation of sweating, extreme confusion, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, slurred speech, seizures, coma
Who is at risk?
- Elderly – encourage the elderly to stay inside during the hottest time of day, go to a movie theater or mall if there is no air conditioning at home. If you know someone that lives alone, be sure to check on them on very hot days
- Children – pay special attention to young athletes practicing outside, remind children to drink water often as they may forget
- Outside workers – especially the first few hot days of the season
- People accustomed to cooler climates – be wary in fast weather changes or when traveling
- Sunburn – especially people with sunburn to large areas of the body which can raise the internal temperature
- Alcohol use – drinking alcohol can inhibit your body’s normal cooling system
- Certain medications can increase your risk for overheating (water pills, beta blockers, and some antidepressants)
- Cars – Make sure the air conditioning is working properly or that all windows are down when temperatures are high. Never leave any children or pets in an unattended car, even for a minute!
- Houses with little to no air conditioning –
- Keep all windows open and fans going
- Go outside, sometimes sitting in the shade is cooler than being indoors
- If possible, go to a public air conditioned location like a mall, movie theater, or store
- Outdoor worksites –
- Stay hydrated, drink more water than you think you would need
- Take frequent breaks and go into air conditioning if possible
What to do if heatstroke or heat exhaustion is suspected:
- Take the affected person inside or into the shade
- Remove excess clothing
- Attempt to cool the person with whatever means available,
- Use a cool shower or bathtub if at home
- Spray with a garden hose if outside
- Use wet towel, sheet, or paper towels and fan the area
- If symptoms of heat stroke is present seek emergency medical attention
The most important things to remember when the temperatures get too hot are to stay hydrated with plain water or a non-sugary sports drink and know your limits with the heat and get into a cooler environment as soon as possible.
For more information - http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-stroke/basics/prevention/con-20032814
Written by: Emily Kinneman, PharmD Candidate 2018