With global warming pushing regional temperatures to unprecedented highs, the possibility of heat-related health concerns will become more and more prevalent for the foreseeable future. Whatever the cause or trends, however, heat stroke can be a very serious and debilitating condition, much more of a stroke than a bout of overheating. Dehydration and stroke are both serious medical threats. They should not be taken lightly.
The body needs to remain within a prescribed and limited temperature range, which it does by deploying various systems. Our metabolisms burn up calories and calories are a measure of heat. That’s what keeps us warm in the winter, while puffy parkas, hats, and mittens insulate us to keep that caloric heat close to our bodies. In the summer, we sweat. This works, because the air moving across our bodies removes the sweat from us, which creates a cooling effect.
Heat stroke, technically, is defined as having a core temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If this temperature is sustained for even a short duration, the damage can be catastrophic, including muscle and nerve damage, which includes brain damage.
Heat Stroke Basic Symptoms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Short, rapid breaths
- Racing heartbeat
- Confusion or dizziness
- Red flush to the skin
- Sudden dryness in the skin (this occurs when the heat stroke is brought on by hot temperatures
- Skin feeling moist (this occurs when the heat stroke is brought on by over-doing physical activity
Certainly, the wisest path for heat stroke or dehydration is to take preventative measures to make sure you don’t fall victim to overheating. Take the following precautions on any hot day – which can be defined by the thermometer but is also defined by your own vulnerability. Children under 4, including infants, are at higher risk of overheating than the general population for a number of reasons. Persons overweight or obese are also especially vulnerable, as are the elderly (anyone over 65) and persons with various illnesses. Check with your doctor, as well, to ensure that medication you might be taking for another condition doesn’t put you in a higher risk category for heat stroke or dehydration.
Of course, anything that keeps you cool is necessary on very hot days. Here are some basic suggestions:
- Stay in the shade or indoors
- Find a mall or a movie theater that has air conditioning – go to the movies in the hottest part of the day and spend your time outdoors when it’s cooler.
- Wear light, light-colored, loose clothing
- Use sports drinks to replace salts and minerals
- Take frequent breaks if exercising or working outdoors
- Avoid big meals
- Stay hydrated. More than drinking an adequate amount in the hot sun, however, it is wise to drink two or more eight-ounce glasses of cool water one or two hours before you go out in the hot sun. Your body will be better prepared to greet the heat that way.
- Be prepared. Listen to radio bulletins about temperature concerns. Tune into a weather channel. If you anticipate the possibility of heat stroke, that can go a long way towards ensuring you are safe.
- Take precautions to ensure pets and children are also keeping cool and staying hydrated. Children, especially, love hot weather and play hard. Make sure they take frequent breaks and drink enough fluids.
Make a Call
Heat stroke can be an emergency that requires medical intervention as soon as possible. Call 911 for emergencies. For primary care, call Pacific Medical Care in San Diego at 619-333-8114 for an appointment.