Heat stroke occurs when the body’s cooling system fails. Sweating stops and the body temperature can quickly exceed 106 degrees. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Extremely high body temperature (usually more than 105 degrees orally)
- Red and dry skin
- Failure to sweat
- Rapid pulse
- Throbbing headache
*Coma, paralysis and death can follow if emergency treatment is not immediately given.
Are you at risk?
Prolonged or intense heat stress can be fatal to anyone, but people older than 60 appear to have the highest risk for death from heat related illness, especially if they are frail, or have pre-existing heart disease, respiratory problems or diabetes. To a lesser extent, babies and young children – especially those left unattended in cars – people with a history of alcoholism and others using certain drugs and medications are at high risk of heat illness.
People most at risk of heat illness from exertion may include: athletes, military personnel, manual laborers, farm workers and people who have diabetes or are overweight. Anyone who is not accustomed to high temperatures and humidity may become ill during exertion.
How can you help someone with heat illness?
If the victim shows signs of heat exhaustion, help the victim to gradually cool off with water or non-alcoholic, caffeine free drinks. Other treatments may include cool showers, rest in an air-conditioned place and wearing less clothing. If the victim shows signs of heat stroke, get the victim into a shady place or a cooler area, then call 9-1-1 for emergency medical service and use any means necessary to start cooling such as immersing in cool water, spraying with a garden hose or fanning vigorously. Continue cooling efforts until the victim’s temperature drops to 101 – 102 degrees. If emergency personnel have not arrived, call a hospital for advice. Get medical help as soon as possible!!!
How to avoid heat stress
Using common sense to stay cool is the most important protection and taking responsibility to help older people, young children and others is the most important protection a family or community has for the health of all its members. In excessive heat:
- Drink two to five times more than usual amounts of water and non-sugar, non-alcoholic beverages to replace fluids lost in perspiration.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing and wide-brimmed hats while in the sun.
- Use sunscreens with a SPF 15 or higher.
- Take frequent breaks limiting physical activity. If warning signs, such as pounding heart and shortness of breath occur, stop to rest in a cooler place.
- Stay in an air-conditioned area if possible. People who lack air conditioning at home may spend the hot hours of the day in air-conditioned public places. If no air conditioning is available, fans are helpful.
- Use a buddy system between co-workers in high-heat stress jobs.
People 65 and older should have a friend or relative check on them or call twice daily during a heat wave.
While planning activities, choose cooler hours to be outdoors. Before prolonged work or exercise away from the safety of air-conditioning, listen to weather forecasts. Forecasters often predict both the heat and the humidity and give special heat warnings.