Between water sports, barbecues, and simply laying out at the beach or pool, most of us relish spending time in the sun during the summer months. But along with skin cancer (melanoma) being a risk factor, the other risk of hot weather is heat stroke. A heat stroke is a severe medical emergency that happens when the body temperature reaches a dangerous 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Normally our bodies are traditionally good about self-regulating to 98.6 degrees. But during extended periods in heat and/or rigorous physical activity, it can be difficult for the body to cool off fast enough. Too much heat can build up within the body and cause a heat stroke. Here’s what you need to know about preventing and treating this serious condition.
Take Preventative Measures
Whether you’re working out or laying out, make sure you always drink plenty of fluids – prior to, during, and after being outside on hot days. Water and electrolyte-enhanced beverages are best. Just make sure to check with your doctor if you’re on a water limited diet. Find shade once in a while, too, and limit your time in the sun between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Eat smaller, cooler meals more often such as salads or a cold soup like gazpacho. Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing made from materials like cotton and linen. Keep yourself cool by putting your feet in cold water, placing a cold rag/towel on your forehead, and taking cool — not cold — showers.
Remember to check in on older, sick and elderly loved ones and neighbors — especially on an extreme heat day. Also, it should go without saying, but never leave children, seniors, or pets in locked, un-air conditioned car.
Recognize The Symptoms
Most individuals with heat stroke experience symptoms such as flushing of the skin, behavioral and mood changes, rapid breathing and heart rate, altered sweating, and even symptoms of confusion or difficulty thinking clearly. In more severe cases nausea, dizziness, and even blacking out can occur.
Treating The Problem
A heat stroke cannot be treated with an over-the-counter medication and bottle of water. It must be addressed by a medical professional as soon as possible — otherwise, the outcome could be fatal. There’s only a short 30-minute window of time before permanent damage or death can occur, so while you’re waiting for assistance, move the individual (or yourself) into a cooler environment and place cool compresses on the body (or create an ice bath) and dress in loose clothing.