GeneralHeat Stroke First Aid: Stay Cool and Survive

It is rare for anyone to suffer from heat stroke in real life, but it is commonly seen in movies and on TV. Heat stroke may be depicted as one of the dangers of being lost in the desert or as a consequence of working in the garden for too long, resulting in hospitalization.

But what is heat stroke in reality? Is it easy to get? Dangerous? Are there effective methods for avoiding it?

What is heat stroke?

A person’s body temperature getting excessively high – typically around or above 104°F or 40°C – triggers heat stroke, a severe medical condition. There are numerous reasons for the overheating that causes heat stroke, with two of the most common being overexertion (work) and hot environments or a combination of both.

Treating heat stroke as soon as possible is crucial, or the victim may suffer serious organ damage, become unconscious, or even die.

The difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but this is incorrect. Heat exhaustion, in fact, refers to the body’s response to overheating in general. Heat stroke is an extreme version of heat exhaustion, but it has distinct symptoms, demonstrating that the sufferer’s overheated state is becoming hazardous and potentially fatal.

Heat exhaustion is accompanied by numerous symptoms, including those one would expect to see with severe overheating, like sweating, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. The condition occurs when a person has suffered from excessive physical activity or fatigue – the “exhaustion” of the name. People who have suffered from heat exhaustion following strenuous exercise may mistake it for the effects of working too hard. Muscle cramps, weak pulses, rapid pulse rate, and noisy breathing are also common. Despite heat exhaustion being a condition resulting from overheating, it is not unusual for the affected individual to initially have cold, clammy skin, which later becomes flushed and red. The person’s temperature will also be higher than average (“average” being 98.6°F or 37°C).

Although heat stroke has some of the same symptoms as heat exhaustion, such as headaches and nausea, these symptoms may worsen, indicating that the condition is becoming more severe and dangerous. They may still be breathing rapidly and loudly. They are also likely to be red and flushed. The following symptoms may mean a person has heat exhaustion, not heat stroke.

  • No longer sweating – When someone begins to experience true heat stroke, they may stop sweating entirely. This can be mistaken for improvement, but it is actually a sign of the body’s temperature control mechanisms failing. However, victims of heat stroke due to physical exertion will often continue to sweat.
  • Irrational behavior or disorientation – People may act oddly or seem disoriented as the condition begins to affect their brains.
  • A fast, forceful heartbeat – The pulse will continue to be fast but may become stronger. This indicates that the body is pumping blood throughout the body in a desperate effort to maintain a safe temperature.
  • Losing consciousness – Eventually, the person may become unconscious as parts of their brain overheat.

If the body temperature of someone in this state is measured, it will be well over 98.6°F (37°C), maybe even over 104°F (40°C) – so hot the person’s life is under threat.

Why heat stroke occurs

Your body must maintain a specific internal temperature of around 98.6°F (37°C) to function properly. A few degrees hotter or colder can be fatal. There are a variety of mechanisms that your body uses to maintain temperature—things like sweating, rapid breathing, and blood flow—to maintain the proper temperature range.

When your body can’t cool down on its own, you might develop heat stroke. You may overheat due to exertion, unusually hot weather conditions, wearing hot clothing, or medical issues. A number of these things might contribute to heat stroke at once. For example, firefighters work in hot conditions while also wearing heavy protective equipment.

Leaving children or animals in hot cars without air conditioning or adequate ventilation is a common cause of heat stroke. A car in the sun may become quite hot, thanks to its metal body and windows acting like a greenhouse. An animal or a young child might be unable to get out of a car in order to escape the heat and unable even to convey their suffering to others. Many places have made it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle as a result of this risk.

When your body overheats, and some of its temperature-regulating mechanisms begin to malfunction, things can go from bad to worse in a hurry. Long-term organ damage, organ failure, brain damage, and death can occur as the process progresses.

First aid for heat stroke

It is crucial to call the emergency services in your area (for example,911 in the USA, 000 in Australia) immediately if you believe someone is suffering from heat stroke, as it is a life-threatening condition, and the longer someone goes without treatment, the higher their risk of permanent organ damage or death.

The first thing to do if you’re caring for someone with heat stroke is to get their body temperature down—quickly. Seek out a cool, shaded location and remove any unnecessary clothing immediately.

Immersing the person in ice water is the gold standard for heat stroke treatment, and a couple of bags of ice in any bathtub will do fine. Hospitals employ a similar method. To prevent the person from drowning, they must be monitored to ensure they do not pass out and slip underwater. Cold water is an alternative, although less effective than ice water. A cool shower could also work because cold water flows through the body faster (like running a burnt hand under a faucet), but in this case, it’s important to watch that the person doesn’t faint.

Another option for cooling down is to have the person sit in front of a fan or another steady flow of air while you spray them with water. This method allows the water to evaporate, taking away heat. You should avoid using wet towels or clothing, as the heat will be trapped (once the moisture in the fabric warms up) if you do.

It is also crucial to help the person stay hydrated so their body can cool down properly. Your body might be dehydrated and unable to absorb water if it lacks electrolytes, so sports drinks like Gatorade or Gastrolyte or Hydralyte solutions may be beneficial. Your body may absorb too much water if it has trouble absorbing it, so limit your water consumption to less than one liter per hour.

It’s beneficial to get assistance from someone with first aid training if possible. As well as knowing how to treat a variety of medical problems (including hyperthermia and heat stroke), people with first aid training have practical skills like CPR that may be needed if the patient’s condition worsens. If heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses or injuries are a possibility in your home or workplace, it’s worth thinking about getting first aid training yourself!

It is important to get help from medical professionals if you think someone is suffering from heat stroke. Ideally, a paramedic or emergency room physician should assess the patient as soon as possible.

How do I avoid heat stroke?

Avoiding heat stroke is mostly common sense. Here are some things to remember about staying safe in the heat.

  • Avoid the heat – It sounds obvious, but keep track of the weather and the temperature of the environment you’re going to be in. Make sure you aren’t staying in direct sunlight for too long, and take breaks to cool down.
  • Wear weather-appropriate clothing – Wear lightweight, breathable garments if it is hot. If you’re working outside, wear a good hat to prevent sunburn. If you must wear warmer clothing (for example, if you’re working with bees), take frequent breaks and remove your hot gear.
  • Have a cooling down plan – before you take the risk of getting overheated, know what steps you should take to cool down afterward. That could be as simple as having a cold drink or going inside where there is air conditioning.
  • Stay hydrated – drinking plenty of water is important for helping you stay cool.
  • Rethink your activities on a hot day – Consider whether you can delay or reschedule a physically hard task if it’s going to be hot. If that’s not possible, reduce your time on hot activities and take frequent breaks to cool down.
  • Don’t leave children or animals in a car – Remember that children and pets should never be left in a vehicle unattended. In case of hot weather, you should be especially vigilant. Do not become one of those tragic stories.

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Digital Health Buzz!

Digital Health Buzz!

Digital Health Buzz! aims to be the destination of choice when it comes to what’s happening in the digital health world. We are not about news and views, but informative articles and thoughts to apply in your business.

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