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Heatstroke is a condition that occurs due to excessive heat that causes the body to experience high levels of dehydration. The body is unable to regulate itself to a normal temperature and cool down, making it hard to stay conscious if left untreated.
Heatstroke can be life-threatening and hence should be controlled in time with professional medical help. (1)
Tips to Prevent Heatstroke
The following tips can help prevent heatstroke during hot weather.
1. Maintain proper hydration
Drinking enough water or other fluids is extremely important. The fluids you consume to remain hydrated should be nonalcoholic.
Sometimes, you may not feel so thirsty and, therefore, do not drink enough water in a day, but it is essential to drink water even when you don’t feel like it. Try to drink moderately cold fluids as extremely cold drinks can cause stomachaches.
If you do not feel thirsty at all, you may need to check with your doctor for underlying causes and issues. (2)
2. Reduce physical exertion
Filling your day with strenuous activities, especially in hot weather, is not a good idea. Plan your day and see what can be avoided if the weather is very hot.
Try to talk to your fitness trainer about light exercising in heat as excessive exercising and physical activity may contribute to heat-related illnesses.
If something can be done at home, do it to avoid going outside on a hot day. Also, if some work can be delayed, plan it for a cooler day. Stay indoors as much as possible. (3)
3. Keep cool
To fight heatstroke, it is imperative to stay cool. Try to stay in a well-ventilated area that is not so crowded; a well-air-conditioned space is the best option.
Use a fan or other cooling system to keep your body cool. If you are outside, stay in the shade as much as possible. (4)
4. Eat right
It is better to eat light, small, and more frequent meals than heavy and less frequent meals.
5. Wear the right clothing
Wear clothes that are of light shade and fit loosely. Choose clothes that are made from natural fibers such as cotton and linen, and avoid synthetic fibers as they are not good in sweat absorption.
Accessorizing with a sun hat or cap for some shade and sunglasses to protect your eyes is also important. (6)
6. Stay indoors
Try to stay in cool air-conditioned places as much as possible. If you’re working outdoors, you can take little breaks and cool down in a mall or a cold public place.
For mild to moderate heat, electric fans may do the trick and keep you cool. But, if they don’t help and you don’t have air conditioning, you can cool off with a cold-water shower or bath. (7)
7. Wear sunscreen
Having sunburn can be bad for your body’s ability to cool down. It can also make you dehydrated.
So, if you’re going outside in the sun, make sure you’re prepared by wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. If you stay outside for a long duration, you may need to reapply the sunscreen. (7)
8. Don’t wait in a parked car
Cars heat up very quickly to very high temperatures. So, waiting in a car for long durations with the AC off even with a window down is not a good idea. Also, don’t leave your children or pet in a parked car. (7)
9. Replace salt and minerals
When you sweat excessively due to heat, important salt and minerals are lost from the body and they need to be replaced. This can be done by drinking a sports drink, salt tablets, oral rehydration solutions, and other fluids.
Note: If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, consult with your doctor before consuming any such beverage. (7)
10. Monitor those at high risk
Some groups of people are more prone to heatstroke and are at a greater risk than others and thus require constant monitoring. They include: (7)
- The elderly, that is, those who are aged 60+ years
- Those living in a warm environment without air conditioning or temperature regulation
- Infants and kids
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding mothers
- Those who suffer from hypertension or respiratory disorders
- Those who suffer from mental disorders
Causes of Heatstroke
The following factors can result in heat-related illness including heatstroke. (8)
1. Improper hydration
The normal body temperature is around 37°C, which is ideal for healthy body functioning. The body maintains this temperature and regulates it by various means such as sweating, which due to evaporation causes loss of body heat.
If a person does not hydrate properly and is not consuming enough fluids, they may become dehydrated, which will result in reduced sweating and a rise in body temperature.
- Working out in hot weather or excessive exercising
- Untreated diarrhea
- Uncontrolled vomiting or emesis
- Medicines such as diuretics that cause increased urination
- Excessive alcohol intake
2. Hot environment
A person living or working in a nonventilated confined space with improper or poor air conditioning in hot areas may be more prone to experiencing heatstroke or related illnesses.
Also, increased exposure to the sun, especially in peak afternoon hours can contribute to the development of heat-related illnesses.
Symptoms of Heatstroke
Heatstroke can be characterized by the following symptoms:
- Dry skin
- Reduced sweating
- Mental health deterioration
- Mental confusion
- Seizures or fits
- Redness or warm skin
- Swelling of the tongue
- Increased pulse rate
- Nausea and vomiting
When to Call a Doctor
If you see someone experiencing heatstroke, you should immediately call for medical assistance. While help is underway, here’s what you can do: (9)
- Lay the person down in a shade or cool place.
- Fan them and remove excess clothing.
- Put wet towels on their feet and gently wet their skin.
- Avoid giving the person water or other fluids.
- Avoid crowding near the person.
- Monitor their temperature till help arrives.
- Call the hospital or a doctor for instructions on what to do.
Most-Asked Questions About Heatstroke
What happens during a heatstroke?
Heatstroke is a condition where the body’s internal temperature rises above 40°C, which can disrupt the balance of the internal environment or homeostasis. Body systems soon start to get affected and shut down.
Usually, a person sweats to cool down and regulate body temperature, but dehydration due to heat does not allow this to happen.
Why is heatstroke life threatening?
When a person experiences heatstroke, the blood thickens, affecting all the organs in the body. The tissues suffer from damage, and the affected person experiences neuronal symptoms such as seizures, mental confusion, and delirium. It may even lead to coma in extreme cases.
If left untreated, it can further cause kidney, lung, or heart damage, thereby becoming life threatening. (10)
Heatstroke causes the body’s internal temperature to rise above 40°C. This starts to affect your body’s constant internal environment and can be life threatening if not managed on time.
It is important to know what to do in case someone gets a heatstroke, especially if you live in a hot zone. It can save a life.