Emergency

The Signs of Heat Stroke and What To Do

Heat stroke is a serious emergency that occurs after extreme heat exposure. In this life-threatening event, the body is unable to cool itself down. In the harsh Texas heat, any outdoor activity can quickly lead to the failure of the body’s cooling systems, where sweating and releasing heat through the skin can’t get our internal body temperatures down.

The people most likely to suffer heat stroke include infants, the elderly, outdoor workers, and those with health conditions. Drinking alcohol can also increase your risk for heat stroke.

The Signs of Heat Stroke

Symptoms of heat stroke vary for each person. Common signs include:

  • Warm, dry skin
  • Lack of sweat
  • Confusion or hallucinations
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing rate
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness

What To Do

If someone is experiencing the symptoms of heat stroke, follow these steps.

Step 1: Call 911.

Step 2: Get the person to a cool, shaded, or air conditioned area and lay him or her down with feet slightly elevated.

Step 3: Remove the person’s excess clothing, apply cool water to the skin, and fan the skin.

Step 4: Apply ice packs to the armpits and groin area and offer cool fluids to drink if the person is alert.

In order to prevent heat related illness, limit your time and activity outdoors on hot, humid days. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and sports drinks, and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Dress in lightweight clothing and protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Take breaks often to rest and rehydrate, mist your skin with a spray bottle, and properly warm up and cool down if exercising. Try to plan activities during cooler times of the day. If you start having muscle cramps or begin to feel ill in any way, cool yourself and hydrate immediately.

Even if your condition has not yet progressed to heat stroke, you may need IV fluids to rehydrate so it doesn’t worsen. CHI St. Luke’s Health emergency departments provide treatment for any serious heat-related illness.

Sources:
Dehydration and Heat Stroke
Heat-Related Illnesses (Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke)

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