Family Health, News tlong05 | 7 years ago

How Do I Know If I Am Having a Heatstroke?

Dr. Edward McCutcheon Heatstroke is the most serious and dangerous form of heat illness, a progression of conditions that also includes heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures, heatstroke occurs when your body can no longer regulate its internal temperature and keep itself cool. This results in damage to the brain and other internal organs, and may even lead to death.

Two Typical Causes of Heatstroke

While outside in high temperatures, you’re most likely to get heatstroke from overexerting yourself. So if it’s hot out, and you’re working – or playing – too hard, your body may be susceptible to overheating. And while demanding sports activities or heavy yard work are common culprits, any activity can trigger heat injury if you perform it strenuously enough. Another typical cause of heatstroke? Dehydration. Although it is not usually the sole trigger, in many cases, it brings on heatstroke faster.  At the very least, it makes things worse.

Learning the Symptoms

When you’re out in the sun on hot summer days, be sure to pay attention to the warning signs of heatstroke. You might begin to experience heat cramps, feeling muscle spasms in your stomach, arms and legs. And if you start showing signs of heat exhaustion – nausea, weakness, lightheadedness and profuse sweating –  take caution, because heatstroke may soon follow. Symptoms of heatstroke are even more severe, and include dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and rapid, shallow breathing.  And contrary to the heavy perspiration that accompanies heat exhaustion, sweating suddenly stops, leaving your skin red, dry and hot to the touch.

What to Do About it

If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing heatstroke, call 911 immediately.  Heatstroke is a medical emergency and may be fatal if care is delayed. In the meantime, get yourself or the sufferer to a cool, shady or air-conditioned area. Remove unnecessary clothing and apply ice packs or cold compresses to the armpits, neck and groin – areas with large blood vessels close to the skin that promote faster cooling of the body.  Replace lost fluids with water or electrolyte-rich sports drinks.

How to Avoid it

Better yet, avoid heatstroke altogether by following a few simple rules. Don’t overexert yourself in hot or humid weather conditions, especially during the hottest parts of the day. If you’re spending long periods of time outside in the heat, be sure to take frequent breaks indoors or in the shade. Drink plenty of fluids, staying hydrated with cool water or sports drinks – not with caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. And if you’re alone, be especially careful: heatstroke frequently causes confusion and disorientation, meaning that you may be unable to recognize when you are experiencing the condition’s symptoms.

Who Does it Affect Most Often?

While anyone can suffer from heatstroke, young children and older adults are most susceptible to the condition, as they have a harder time controlling their body temperatures. Leaving children in locked cars may be especially dangerous, as temperatures in enclosed spaces can rise rapidly. Young athletes are also common sufferers, due to long, hot days spent outside on the football field, the tennis court – even in the swimming pool. Day-long sports practices, filled with strenuous activity and high temperatures, can set the stage for heatstroke. dr-mccutcheon-carolinas-healthcare-system Dr. Edward McCutcheon is the Medical Director at Carolina's Medical Center-University's  Emergency Department.