How to Avoid Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke is defined as a core body temperature above 105⁰F.  It is a condition that occurs when the body becomes overheated as a result of being exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time.  When this happens, the central nervous system starts to dysfunction, and the heat load on the body cannot be resolved.

Why does heat stroke occur?

Heat stroke happens when evaporation, our body’s principle mechanism of heat loss in a hot environment, becomes ineffective.  This occurs when the relative humidity is above 75%.  The other methods of heat dissipation cannot efficiently dissipate heat when environmental temperature exceeds skin temperature.

Frequent associated complications of heat stroke include

·         acute respiratory distress syndrome

·         disseminated intravascular coagulation

·         acute kidney injury

·         Liver failure

·         Hypoglycemia

·         rhabdomyolysis

·         seizures

There are two types of heat stroke, classic and exertional heat strokes.  This is how they differ:

Classic heat stroke: affects most individuals, most often the elderly, with underlying chronic medical conditions that either impair thermoregulation or prevent removal from a hot environment

Exertional heat stroke: usually occurs in young, otherwise healthy individuals, like athletes, who engage in heavy exercise during periods of high temperature and humidity

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

Heat stroke can mimic a heart attack or other conditions.  Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps and aches, dizzinessSymptoms of heat stroke include high body temperature, absence of sweating, hot red or flushed, dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, disorientation, seizure and coma.

How can you manage heat stroke?

If you or someone you know is experiencing heat stroke, help by trying to ensure adequate breathing and circulation.  You can also try to induce rapid cooling by spraying the patient with water and using fans to blow air over moist skin, immersing the patient in ice water, pouring ice water on patient and rubbing ice packs on patient.  You can also help by treating the other complications mentioned above.

Severe heat stroke has a high mortality rate.  This rate correlates with the degree of temperature elevation, time to initiate cooling measures and the number of organ systems affected.

The best course of action for dealing with heat stroke is preventing it. Here are some tips for prevention:

·         Slow down or discontinue physical activity

·         Avoid physical activity during hottest time of day

·         Stay hydrated with cool beverages

·         At first sign of heat stroke (dangerously hot, confused) get patient into ice-cold water as soon as possible