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Avoiding Heat Stroke

How dangerous is the heat?

Everyone can get sick from too much heat. If you think you are "used to" hot, humid summers, think again. Normally your body does a good job of cooling itself when it loses heat through the skin or evaporates sweat. Heat-related illness can range from severe cramps of the muscles in the arms, legs and stomach to the emergency of heat stroke.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a deadly combination of high body temperature and neurological symptoms. Some people will first get heat exhaustion. That is when the body can no longer keep itself cool. The person has nausea, vomiting, fatigue and dizziness. Others will progress directly to heat stroke. The body stops sweating and the skin becomes dry and flushed. Body temperature can be more than 104 degrees and the person becomes confused and agitated. Fainting, seizures and death can occur.

What should you do if someone has heat stroke?

Two very important things-

  • Call 911 or get medical care as soon as you can.
  • Cool the person down fast. Get them out of the sun and into air conditioning. Take off clothing, spray them with cool water and fan them to evaporate the water. Ice packs to the groin or under armpits can help lower the body temperature. Putting them in cool water can help too.

Who is at risk for heat-related illness?

Anyone can get heat stroke but there are several things that can put you at risk:

  • Heart, lung, stroke and kidney disease.
  • Medicines like water pills or diuretics, sedatives and blood pressure medicine can make it harder for the body to sweat.
  • Being overweight and drinking alcohol.
  • Children and the elderly.

What are the best steps for prevention?

Take the heat seriously! Drink lots of water. On hot days, try to spend at least 2 hours in air conditioning. If you don’t have air conditioning, go to the mall, the library or a friend’s house. Try to wear light colored cotton clothes- these are cooler than dark fabrics. A hat will block the sun.