As soon as the weather begins to warm, people begin planning a wide range of outside activities to enjoy.
However, as the summer progresses, these activities can become more hazardous, with an increased risk for heatstroke that can cause serious medical risk. Heatstroke is an overheating of the body above its normal range that often occurs under hot conditions or during vigorous physical activity. Overheating can come on so gradually you don’t notice the early danger signs. Once the body temperature begins to reach this dangerous stage, it can be difficult to cool it down to the normal range. Heatstroke can be life-threatening, causing organ failure, so monitoring yourself and your group when outdoors in hot weather is important to preventing a sudden, medical emergency.
Signs of Heatstroke
Conditions that lead to heatstroke can come on unexpectedly. The day may be warmer than expected. Cloud cover may clear and result in more direct sunlight. There may be less shade to escape to during your activities. Heatstroke generally occurs as a progression, from heat cramps or heat exhaustion and then, to heatstroke. In the early stages, people may experience increased profuse thirst and muscle cramps, which may proceed to profuse sweating, weakness, nausea, fatigue or even fainting. You should get the individual into a cooler environment immediately to avoid the more serious effects of heatstroke. The individual may not be willing to leave the group and the hot, outdoor area, which can make the problem worse. You can begin to suspect an individual is suffering from heatstroke if you notice flushing of the skin, Sweating will stop, and the skin will feel dry and hot. The person may be dizzy or light-headed. There may be nausea and vomiting. They may become confused or disoriented. They may stagger or have trouble with balance. A throbbing headache may occur. The heartbeat becomes rapid. The person may go into a seizure or may become unconscious. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that can be life-threatening. Immediate medical attention is needed for an individual suffering from heatstroke symptoms. You should get the person to the emergency room as quickly as possible or call 9-1-1 for an ambulance that can provide medical support.
Preventing and Recovering From Heatstroke
Medical care related to the treatment of heatstroke includes temperature monitoring, blood tests and urine tests to detect its effects on internal organs. Immersion in cool water or ice bath may be necessary to bring down body temperature to prevent organ damage. Evaporative techniques, such as misting the skin and turning a fan on the individual may also be used. Ice packs or cooling blankets are other methods. The doctor may administer medications to reduce shivering, which increases body temperature. Giving fluids, either by mouth or IV is also important to the recovery process. Recovery from a minor case of heatstroke can take just a few days. However, for severe cases, it may take several months for full recovery. Preventing heatstroke is much easier than recovering from the condition. When you or your group is outdoors, keep the risk of heatstroke in mind. Provide plenty of fluids other than alcohol and soft drinks, which deplete fluid levels in the body. Make sure there are shaded areas where people can take shelter from the hot sun or bring canopies to create your own shade. Reduce activity levels during the hottest part of the day. Take particular care with individuals who are taking medications or have a medical condition. Heatstroke can be a life-threatening condition, particularly for young children and elders. Monitor others carefully and get immediate medical help when indicated.