Hot weather health: How to treat and prevent heat stroke

family at beach

It’s hot outside, so you should keep a close watch on your health. You can easily become susceptible to hyperthermia, which is when your body temperature is unusually high, according to the National Institutes of Health. This can quickly turn into heat stroke if precautions aren’t taken.

There are five facts you should know about the dangers of heat stroke.

Heat stroke has multiple symptoms

When your body temperature rises to 104°F, you’re experiencing heat stroke. You’ll notice a strong, rapid pulse. You won’t be sweating and you’ll have dry, flushed skin. You may even feel confused or aggressive. In worse cases, stumbling, fainting and even a coma will indicate a heat stroke.

People with health problems are at an increased risk for heat stroke

You’re at a higher risk for heat stroke if you have blood circulation problems or if you’re underweight or overweight. If you have sweat glands that don’t function normally, you’re at a greater risk, too. Dehydration, alcohol consumption and even your diet are deadly agents for heat stroke. The amount of medications you take and the effects that those medications have on you make you a more likely victim of heat stroke.

Heat stroke can affect anyone

Staying out of the summer heat whenever possible is a good precaution for people of all ages. Be smart about the weather; wear cool, loose-fitting clothes when the mercury is rising and don’t travel long distances by foot if you can access public transportation or get a ride from someone you know.

Don’t spend a lot of time in crowded places. You’re at an increased risk for hyperthermia and heat stroke if you don’t have access to air conditioning or if you’re drinking too few fluids, so get into the shade and drink plenty of water.

You can take steps to prevent heat stroke

If it’s exceptionally warm outside and you don’t have air conditioning in your home, stay out of direct sunlight and drink water. You should go to a location that has air conditioning. See if you can hang out at a friend’s house that has air conditioning. Or take in a movie, or window shop at the mall. Some communities feature cooling centers, where residents can go to get out of the heat.

You need to act quickly to help someone suffering from heat stroke

Call 911 immediately if someone is experiencing heat stroke. You can help in the meantime by moving the person to an area that is out of direct sunlight, or into an air-conditioned place if possible. Make the person lie down. You’ll want to cool the person’s blood, so apply a cold, wet compress to the person’s wrists, neck, armpits and/or groin. You can also sponge off the person with cool water and help the person drink water or a fruit/vegetable juice until medical help arrives.

Related story: Child deaths from heat stroke hit 500


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