It seems it doesn’t take long for the heat to take its toll. Once the thermometer tops 100 most of us experience a few changes in our general attitude, including heightened agitation. The inconvenience of the dog days of summer are setting in and you begin to hear people complain about it, if you aren’t already yourself. However, regardless of your age and overall health, extreme heat is something everyone should heed with caution.
When the Thermometer Reaches 100, Everyone is in Danger
Prior to this week, we have gone nine months without a 100 degree day. That means our bodies have been regulating our body heat within a safe zone this summer without much interference from outside temperatures. However, extreme heat can hamper our body’s ability to control our core temperature, resulting in potentially dangerous conditions.
While we have often heard in the news that only the elderly, children, and pregnant women are susceptible to heat stroke and heat-related illness, healthy athletes and adults exerting themselves too much in extreme heat can also suffer from heat illness. It is important to know the signs for heat stroke and heat illness and seek medical treatment immediately.
Know the Signs of Heat Stroke and Heat Illness
Heat stroke may begin as a progression of milder symptoms including heat-related cramps, fainting, and exhaustion. However, if you do not have these warning symptoms, you may still develop heat stroke. Heat stroke is brought on by prolonged exposure to high temperatures, typically accompanied by dehydration, which ultimately shuts down your body’s internal cooling system and temperature regulation. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s internal temperature reaches 105 degrees and brings with it complications including nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation, and sometimes loss of consciousness or coma.
You may also be having a heat stroke if you experience the following along with a temperature of 105 degrees or more:
Dizziness and light-headedness
Lack of sweating despite the heat
Red, hot, and dry skin
Muscle weakness or cramps
Nausea and vomiting
Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
Rapid, shallow breathing
Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
Treat Heat Stroke Immediately
Treating heat stroke immediately is critical, as it can kill or cause damage to the brain and other organs. If you believe someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Then work to bring their temperature down by placing them in a cool, shaded place. If possible, use a fan and apply ice packs to their neck, back, and arm pits to help bring down their temperature. You may also try immersing them in a cool bath with ice.
If you or someone you know has suffered from a heat stroke, getting back to your daily activities will take a while. Once you have suffered from heat stroke, your chances from developing it again increase. Exercise and physical exertion is not recommended within the first few weeks following heat stroke. Talk to your doctor about when you should resume normal activity.