Since Memorial Day is now in the rear view mirror, that means the unofficial kickoff to summer has begun!
Along with fun days at the pool and family vacations, there’s the oppressive summer heat that Texas is known for. Since many of us or our kids will be spending lots of time in the sun, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
This video outlines common symptoms of someone in distress and gives you tips on how to help someone that could be suffering from a heat illness. Just like water safety, it’s important to refresh your memory on the basics of sun safety each year.
Keep reading for a good refresher course—we hope you don’t have to use what you learn, but it is important to know in a pinch!
What is a heatstroke?
The Mayo Clinic explains that a heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temps. This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke, can occur if your body temperature rises to 104° F or higher. If you suspect someone is experiencing a heatstroke, it’s important that you call 911 right away, because this is considered a medical emergency. An untreated heatstroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing the risk of serious complications or death.
Symptoms of a heatstroke
It’s important to be able to quickly identify the symptoms of a heatstroke since it often occurs as after milder heat–related illnesses. The following are common symptoms; however, it’s important to note that these symptoms might not all be present at one time. Take any of these symptoms seriously.
- Core body temperature over 104° Fahrenheit
- Throbbing headache
- 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
First aid for heatstroke
First and foremost, call 911. Remember that delaying treatment can be fatal, and that 20% of heatstroke victims die.
While waiting for medical attention, move the person to a cooler location like an air-conditioned building or a shady location. If they are wearing many layers, take off excess clothing. Next, fan the victim while cooling down the skin with water or a sponge. If you have access to ice packs, it’s important to put them in areas rich with blood vessels like the groin, nape of the neck and back to expedite cooling of the body. And finally, if you are somewhere like an athletic facility with an ice bath, you can submerge the patient in to quickly lower body temperature.
Who is at risk for heatstroke?
Infants and children under the age of 4 and seniors over 65 are at the highest risk of heat illness since their bodies have a harder time adjusting to temperatures.
In addition, those with certain health conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease, or those have high blood pressure, are also susceptible.
Finally, certain medications used to treat those other conditions are also associated with an increased risk of heatstroke. Those that live in very urban areas that lack moving air (think New York) could also suffer from a heatstroke. Also, those without air conditioning could also be at risk, particularly during prolonged heat waves.
How to protect myself
Prevention is the best first step to staying safe this summer! If you are going to be outside for prolonged periods of time, it’s important to wear lightweight and loose fitting clothing, and use a sunscreen with at least SFP 30.
Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. If you are sweating a lot, you may be losing too much salt as well so include an electrolyte sports drink in as well.
And finally, take extra precautions if you are doing heavy labor or exercise outside. The general recommendation is to drink 24 ounces of fluid two hours before exercise, and consider adding another 8 ounces of water or sports drink right before exercise. During exercise, you should consume another 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty.