Warning signs of heat stroke

June 11, 2019 | by Priya Jimmy, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

In most hot weather situations, your body is able to cool itself.

If you’re taking in enough fluids and avoiding too much hot sun, your body is able to maintain its internal temperature — even when you feel hot and sweaty.

When you’re outdoors in the blazing sun for too long, or stuck indoors where there’s no air conditioning, and begin to get dehydrated, that’s when the body’s internal processes stop working as well.

People can experience heat-related illness:

  • When working outside if they’re heavily dressed (such as firefighters)
  • When they recently moved to a warmer, unfamiliar climate
  • Because they aren’t drinking enough water while outside in hot weather
  • If they are overweight
  • If they remain inside in an un-air-conditioned space

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two levels of illness you can experience when your body loses its ability to maintain its internal temperature.

Heatstroke and heat exhaustion have a few symptoms in common:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Passing out

With heat exhaustion, a person may also feel:

  • Weakness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Cold/pale/clammy skin

If you experience these symptoms, go to a cool place and loosen or remove heavy clothing. Take a cool bath or put cool, wet cloths on your skin. Sip cool water. If you’re still feeling ill after an hour with that treatment, get medical help.

Heat stroke is what happens when heat exhaustion is left untreated. Heat stroke has some additional, more troubling symptoms, including:

  • Confusion or hallucinations
  • A high body temperature (103 degrees and higher)
  • Hot, red skin (dry or damp)
  • Fast, strong pulse

When someone experiences heat stroke, it’s a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately.

Do whatever you can to cool the person down. Try cool, wet cloths; misting with water or a garden hose or a cool bath. Provide cool (not ice cold) water to drink.

Keep these heat-illness prevention tips in mind this summer:

  • Drink more water, even if you’re not thirsty.
  • If you start to feel too hot, get inside an air-conditioned space.
  • Wear light, breathable clothing. Nothing too heavy.
  • Save your workouts and other strenuous activities for early morning or evening, when the sun isn’t as hot.
  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
  • If you start to feel nauseous, develop a headache, weakness or dizziness, get into an air-conditioned space right away.

Edward-Elmhurst Health emergency departments — located in Elmhurst, Naperville and Plainfield — combine modern technology with comfort and care.

When your medical needs can’t wait, Edward-Elmhurst Health Walk-in Clinics and Immediate Care Centers have board-certified providers ready to treat your non-emergency urgencies.

Related blog:

How to deal with heat and humidity during outdoor workouts

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