Heatstroke or sunstroke is the most serious of heat related conditions. It can kill people especially if they are older. Long exposure to high temperatures along with dehydration causes heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature control system fails and so the body is unable to cool down. The temperature of the body can rise to about 105° F and this affects the central nervous system. Heat stroke can also occur suddenly without any signs and symptoms if there has been prolonged exposure to high temperature.
Signs and symptoms of heatstroke :
- High temperature of about 105° F.
- Severe headache.
- Hot, flushed skin and no sweating.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Deep breathing and very fast pulse or shallow breathing and low pulse.
- Confusion or slurred speech.
- Convulsions and seizures.
- Fainting fits or loss of consciousness or coma.
Heat stroke can also happen suddenly without any signs or symptoms.
If you suspect that a person is suffering from heatstroke, then immediately call for an ambulance and take the person to the hospital at the earliest. Till the ambulance arrives, here is what you can do to try to cool down the body with any of these measures:
- Move the person to an air-conditioned room; if that is not possible, then take them to the coolest shady area and remove all unnecessary clothing.
- Place the person under a cold shower or in a tub of cold water.
- Use the garden hose to cool them down and keep fanning them so they can get cool air.
- Sponge the body with cold water or place ice packs and cold, wet towels under the armpits, behind the neck, and the groin.
- Cover with damp sheets after removing maximum clothing.
Prevention is best
- Before leaving the house in the summer heat, drink a lot of water and other fluids, but avoid alcohol, coffee, and drinks that contain cola or caffeine, as these can cause dehydration.
- If you are not used to being out in the sun, then begin going out for very short periods first and increase the time gradually.
- Wear light coloured, loose fitting, and lightweight clothes that allow air to circulate.
- Do not do any strenuous activity in the sun. If you have to be out in the sun, make sure your head is covered with some scarf, wide brimmed hat, or umbrella.
- Use sunscreen and sunglasses.
- Drink water or fluids every 20 minutes or so even if not thirsty.
- Do not carry out any strenuous activity during the peak heat time like exercising; either do it indoors or schedule it for a cooler time of the day, like early morning or late evening.
- Monitor your urine and if it is dark coloured then make sure you drink more water than you are presently drinking to avoid dehydration.
- Cool down your home by drawing curtains, blinds during the daytime.
It is possible to suffer a heat stroke during a heat wave and older people are more prone to heat stroke.