When our bodies get hot, we sweat, which is nature’s way to cool ourselves down. When the body loses its ability to cool itself and our internal body temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher, however, heatstroke – a life-threatening condition – can occur.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year an average of 658 people succumb to extreme heat; this statistic is even more tragic when you realize most of these heat-related casualties more than likely could have been prevented.
There’s no reason why anyone should suffer a heat stroke in the summer or at any other time, yet 8,081 heat-related deaths were reported in the United States between 1999 and 2010. During that eleven-year span, more men died from heat-related illnesses than women, and most were aged 65 or older. It’s important to note that heat stroke increases with age. Elderly people, aged 85 years and older face a greater risk.
Most heat-related deaths occur during the summer, more specifically between the months of May to September. The hottest months of summer, July, and August, see the most number of people die from heat stroke. Here are some ways to prevent heat stroke.
To state the obvious, staying out of the heat is the best way to protect against heat stroke. However, those who are without air conditioning are still at risk when homes reach intense temperatures. In this case, getting out of the house and subsequently out of the heat could save your life. Take a trip to the mall, a movie theater, a pool, or another public facility with air conditioning and spend time in the cool air. If you can’t leave home, take a cool shower or bath.
Avoid working or playing outdoors when the weather is very hot. Vigorous activity will only increase the possibility that your body’s internal temperature will increase, further endangering you to the possibility of heat stroke.
Staying hydrated is essential at any time during the year, but especially during the summer months, and even more so during a heat wave. Hydration keeps your inner temperature to a safe level and protects against heat stroke. Drink water and avoid alcoholic beverages, since alcohol doesn’t allow the body to regulate its temperature and serves as a diuretic. Keep tuned to your pee. If it starts to turn darker, or if you are not urinating at all, you are dehydrated. If it becomes too bad, you may need to head to the emergency room or urgent care for intravenous rehydration.
What to Wear
What you wear can save your life during the summer months and will prepare you for an impending heat wave. Lightweight fabric, lightweight colors (sensing a trend here?) will keep you cooler. Wear them loose and not so tight that they constrict.
Know your community’s response to heat waves. Many communities have a plan in place. Contact your local government agencies that are responsible for emergency preparedness. Don’t wait until the hottest day of the year to become educated on what’s available to the community during emergencies. It’s best to be prepared beforehand.
Symptoms of Heatstroke
The symptoms associated with heatstroke include an extremely high body temperature that rises to 104 degrees or more. The affected person is hot but isn’t perspiring and the skin is understandably red and is hot and dry to the touch.
A fast pulse and difficulty breathing accompany heatstroke. In the event of a life-threatening medical emergency like heat stroke, call 911 for emergency medical services immediately. DO NOT WAIT! Inform the emergency room staff that you are a patient of Children’s Health Care and they will contact us.
The friendly staff at Children’s Health Care welcomes your call and looks forward to serving you. If you have any questions about our pediatric services, please call your preferred office at the number below. To schedule an appointment, you can call us or use our secure online appointment request form.