Summer’s just around the corner, which means lots of outdoor time for sports, swimming and other recreational activities. Summer also means yard work and outdoor maintenance you can't perform in the winter. As the temperature and humidity rise, it's important to think about how you can prevent heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses despite summer heat waves. Here are some suggestions, courtesy of PrimeCare Urgent Care Clinic in Cummings, Georgia.
What's Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke isn't really a stroke in the usual sense of the word – you don't have a blood clot or bleeding in the brain. However, heat stroke can damage your brain, as well as other organs like the heart and kidneys, and can also damage muscles. Heat stroke occurs when your body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Centigrade. This is the most serious form of heat injury, and if not treated promptly, can cause serious complications or even death. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stoke are part of a continuum. Both heat cramps and heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke if not treated.
What Are the Symptoms?
Heat stroke typically begins with symptoms like heat cramps. Muscle cramps, profuse sweating and occasionally dizziness are signs of heat cramps. In most cases, blood pressure and pulse are normal. With heat exhaustion, other symptoms appear. Profuse sweating continues and the skin may become cold and clammy, breathing is rapid and shallow, and the pulse is weak. Most patients also complain of feeling dizzy; some may become confused or disoriented. Once the condition progresses to heat stroke, the patient becomes irritable and then apathetic, very disoriented and unsteady. The pulse is very strong and rapid, while blood pressure drops and the skin is hot and dry. Convulsions and coma may follow.
Can Heat Stroke be Prevented?
In nearly all cases, you can prevent heat-related illnesses. Get acclimated to the heat, especially if you've just moved to a new area. This may take several weeks, so limit your time outdoors until you're conditioned. Avoid the hottest part of the day if at all possible when you're performing any kind of strenuous activity – work or exercise in the cooler morning and evening hours. Loose-fitting, lightweight clothing allows your body to cool itself. Use sunburn protection such as a hat and sunscreen. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature. Some medications and medical conditions can increase your risk of heat stroke; take extra precautions. Never sit in or leave anyone in car parked in the sun – the temperature can rise more than 20 degrees in 10 minutes – and even a car in the shade can get excessively hot.
If you think you might have a heat-related illness, get medical care promptly – remember, heat stroke is a medical emergency. Please contact us for more information. In addition to urgent care for heat-related illness, we also offer other important services like sports physicals.