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“Stay cool, stay safe: Beat the heat, avoid heat stroke.”
As the temperatures rise during the hot summer months, it’s important to be aware of the risks of heatstroke. Heatstroke is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when your body overheats, leading to a body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). It is the most severe form of hyperthermia, or heat-related illness, and can have severe consequences such as brain damage, organ failure, or even death. In this blog, we will delve into the factors that increase the risk of heatstroke, its signs and symptoms, and how to properly treat it.
Factors that Increase Risk of Heatstroke:
Several factors can increase your risk of developing heatstroke. These include:
Drinking alcohol: Alcohol can impair your body’s ability to regulate temperature and increase the risk of heatstroke.
Being male: Men are at a higher risk of heatstroke compared to women, possibly due to physiological differences and higher rates of engaging in outdoor activities.
Dehydration: When you are dehydrated, your body has a harder time cooling down, making you more susceptible to heatstroke.
Medications: Certain medications, such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and heart and blood pressure medications, can affect your body’s ability to regulate temperature and increase the risk of heatstroke.
Diseases: Certain diseases that affect your ability to sweat, such as cystic fibrosis, can increase the risk of heatstroke.
High fever: Having a high fever from an infection or illness can increase the risk of heatstroke.
Obesity: Being overweight or obese can make it harder for your body to regulate temperature, increasing the risk of heatstroke.
Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke:
Heatstroke can present with various signs and symptoms, including:
Anhidrosis: Dry skin that doesn’t sweat, which is more common in non-exertional heatstroke.
Ataxia: Problems with movement and coordination.
Balance problems: Difficulty maintaining balance or coordination.
Delirium: Confusion or disorientation.
Dizziness: Feeling lightheaded or dizzy.
Excessive sweating: Experiencing excessive sweating that continues even after you’ve stopped exercising, which is more common in exertional heatstroke.
Hot, flushed skin or very pale skin: Your skin may appear red and flushed or pale.
Low or high blood pressure: Heatstroke can affect blood pressure, causing it to be too low or too high.
Treatment of Heatstroke:
Heatstroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone is experiencing heatstroke, take the following steps while waiting for medical help to arrive:
Cool the person down: Apply ice packs to the neck, groin, and armpits. Encourage them to drink slightly salted fluids, such as sports drinks or salted water. Have them lie down in a cool, shady, well-ventilated environment. If possible, immerse them in cool water or mist them with water and blow air across their bodies to promote evaporative cooling.
Monitor their breathing: Carefully monitor their breathing and remove any airway blockages to ensure they are breathing properly.
Do not give medications: Avoid giving any medications, including aspirin and acetaminophen, as they may not be safe in this situation.
Remove tight clothing: Remove any tight or heavy clothing to help with cooling.
Senior Consultant – Internal Medicine