It is a hot summer day and you are walking down the street, when suddenly you see a runner who appears confused and is having trouble breathing. After deciding to intervene, you begin to assess the runner and recognize that his temperature is extremely high and his heart rate is rapid with a bounding pulse. You call 911 while assisting the runner into shade. When medical attention arrives they say the runner is suffering from heatstroke and your keen observations may have helped save his life.
With summer in full force, it is a peak time for the serious condition known as heatstroke. It is important to know the causes and recognize the signs and symptoms of this horrific condition before it’s too late. This most serious form of heat injury can occur when the body temperature rises to 104˚F or higher. This steep rise in internal temperature is usually caused by prolonged exposure or physical exertion in high temperatures. If the symptoms are not caught early enough, it can quickly cause damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The longer it takes to receive treatment, the more serious complications become, possible even leading to death.
So, what are the signs and symptoms to look out for? There are various symptoms that occur with heatstroke with increased body temperature being the main symptom. Other key symptoms include altered mental state or behavior including confusion, slurred speech, and seizures, an alteration in sweating, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid and shallow breathing, headache, and a racing heart rate brought on by the stress on the body and its attempt to cool itself. If any of these signs or symptoms are presented in any combination and it is suspected that someone may be suffering heatstroke, immediate medical attention is imperative! While waiting for medical help to arrive, take action to cool the person who has overheate
d. Assist the overheated person to shade or indoors, remove any excessive clothing, and attempt to cool the person with any available resources— try a sponge with cool water, placing cold packs or towels on the head, neck, armpits, and groin, or spraying with a hose. Any and all attempts to cool the person are valuable!
Heatstroke can be prevented if the right measures are taken to keep the body cool. Preventative measures include wearing loose-fitting and lightweight clothing, drinking ample amounts of fluid, protecting skin from sunburn, avoiding strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day, and being aware of one’s on body and its limitations.
This summer, do not fall victim to heatstroke and its vicious repercussions. Protect yourselves and others by remaining alert and taking all necessary precautions to keep the body cool and protected!
Heatstroke. (2014, July 12). Retrieved June 14, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-stroke/basics/definition/con-20032814
Picture from Pittsburgh Marathon