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What To Do If You Get Heatstroke And How To Identify It?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Global Warming has increased the chances of heat-related illnesses. Dehydration and fainting are common complaints of people exposed to hot climates. Heatstroke is a serious heat-related illness and requires medical attention. It is a consequence of prolonged exposure to the sun, usually accompanied by dehydration. This leads to overheating of one’s body and, in turn, a heatstroke. Read on to find out more about heatstroke, its symptoms and treatments.


Symptoms related to a heat stroke:

It is essential to know the symptoms of heatstroke in case of a dire emergency with oneself or someone else. This way, you can identify the problem better.

  • An elevated body temperature rising more than 103-104 F is the major symptom of a heat stroke. This can usually be obtained from a thermometer. 
  • A heatstroke can bring forth alterations in one’s mental state. One may experience agitation, delirium, seizures, confusion, slurred speech pattern and a disturbed flow of thoughts. 
  • A change in your sweating can denote a heat stroke. If your skin feels hot and dry to the touch, it is a heatstroke brought on by the hot weather. If it feels slightly moist, it may be a heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise. 
  • A heatstroke may also leave you nauseated or feeling the need to vomit. 
  • Your skin turns red or flushed when undergoing a heatstroke. 
  • Your breathing becomes swift and shallow while your pulse increases tremendously to cool you down. 
  • Heatstroke is also characterised by a pulsing headache
  • Your muscles may feel weak or experience cramping when undergoing a heat stroke. 
  • A drop in Blood Pressure is also common.

Causes:

There are mostly two causes of heatstroke. Classic heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun or the hot and humid weather for longer periods. This leads to a rise in the core body temperature and is most likely to affect older people with chronic illnesses. Exertional heat stroke is likely to occur if one is working strenuously in hot temperatures. It affects those who are not used to the heat. The body temperature rises in increments due to the heat produced during exercise and the outside hot temperature. 

Prevention is the definitive treatment for heat stroke. It is essential to check on the old aged frequently, especially people who don’t have access to air-conditioning. Wear appropriate clothing, avoid leaving children unattended in cars, and reschedule strenuous activity if there is hot, humid weather

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Prevention:

When the temperatures are high on a certain day, it is recommended to stay at home or in air-conditioned areas. However, if it is a necessity to travel or work in the heat, here are some precautions to follow- 

  • Wear light-coloured clothing which is loose to allow enough air to flow. Wear a hat or carry an umbrella. 
  • Apply sunscreen on exposed areas of the body. 
  • Hydrate yourself throughout the day with enough fluids. It can be water or healthy drinks or even ORS. Excessive heat can drain your electrolytes leading to dehydration and chances of heatstroke. 
  • If you are working outside, make sure to drink additional 1- 2 litres of water or healthy fluids and electrolyte-infused sports drinks for maximum prevention. 
  • Monitor the colour of your urine. Darker colour urine means less fluid in your body and lighter-coloured urine indicates a good amount of fluid retention. 
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol since they drain the fluids from your body. 
  • Do not be or leave anyone in a parked car during the summer heat.
  • Check with your doctor for any medical assistance required for the summer season. 

In case of a heat stroke, if the primary care techniques do not help, seek immediate medical attention as the person may go into convulsions. Do not use medicines like Paracetamol, instead under medical supervision the person may need some sedatives to prevent or control epileptic fits.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

Treatment:

When you recognise symptoms of heatstroke, consult a doctor immediately to avoid fatal damage. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, move the person to a shaded area. Remove any clothing that is not required. Provide enough air to the person by fanning them. Use water or a damp cloth to wet their skin. Use a damp cloth (normal to slightly cold temperature) and apply it to their neck, groin, armpits and back. These areas have a concentration of blood vessels that can be cooled down. However, do not use very cold water or ice for older patients, young children or those with a chronic illness. Try any method of rehydration. 

Heatstrokes are increasing rapidly every day. This can become a risk factor if you are above the age of 65 or are suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, mental illness, obesity and other such complications. One must be well-prepared to face adversity as such to avoid perilous situations.

Hydration is key! 

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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