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Sharp Health News

Know the dangers of heat stroke

July 22, 2016

Know the dangers of heat stroke

Heat stroke is one of the most dangerous but avoidable heat-related injuries — and it can strike anyone.

Heat stroke occurs when your internal core temperature reaches 105° Fahrenheit and your body can no longer cool itself down. If you are exposed to prolonged heat, whether at work or outdoors, and notice the following symptoms, seek care right away:

  • Stop sweating, but are still hot
  • Dizzy or feel faint
  • Nauseated or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confused, no mental clarity
  • Intense headache, much more severe than what you normally feel when spending time in the sun
  • Hot, bright red skin*
*This could also be a sunburn. When it's heat stroke, it will present with another symptom. Darker skin may turn gray. 

Other less common but more serious symptoms include seizures and fainting.

Recovery from heatstroke depends on the amount of time it takes the body to return its temperature back to normal. If you or anyone you see has the above symptoms, follow this treatment plan:
  • Call 911.
  • Move out of direct sunlight. Try heading indoors or at least to the closest shady spot.
  • Remove any excess clothing.
  • Cool the body down with air and ice if available. It's best to hit the places where you find the most blood vessels: neck, back, groin and armpits.

To avoid heat stroke, you can take several preventive measures:

  • If you've had heat stroke before, exercising intensely outside in high heat isn't recommended because you are at a higher risk of getting it again, according to Jessica Bixenmann, health coach and behavior change expert from Sharp Health Plan's Best Health Team.
  • Watch your urine to make sure you stay hydrated. "Make sure it's light in color," says Bixenmann. "It's tough to tell people to drink a specific amount of water per day. It's actually weight-based and different if you have certain health issues. Paying attention to your urine is the best method to find out if you are hydrating enough."
  • When exercising in heat, stop for drink breaks every 15 minutes. Watch for dehydration symptoms such as licking your lips often, sunken eyes or feeling a loss of energy.
  • Wear light colors and light, loose fabrics.
  • Teach your children to come indoors when they feel hot. Model this behavior as well.
  • Don't head outside during the hottest hours of the day.
Pets are also not immune to heat stroke. Animals don't have efficient cooling systems. Watch for these symptoms: 
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Small amount of urine or no urine
  • Vomiting
  • Wobbly
If you notice these signs, be sure to cool down your pet immediately by running cool, not cold water over the body and then heading to the vet.

Heat stroke can be life-threatening. Always take as many precautions as possible to prevent it from happening to you.

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