Heat Stroke & More: What You Need to Know About Heat Stress Syndromes

Heat Stroke & More: What You Need to Know About Heat Stress Syndromes

Heat Stroke & More: What You Need to Know About Heat Stress Syndromes

It is hard to believe that the “dog days” of summer are fast approaching. As the mercury rises and our summer fun begins, heat related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke might occur.

Heat stress syndromes, such as heat exhaustion and stroke, often occur during the first days of a heat wave. These syndromes generally occur when the temperature outside is greater than 90 degrees F, with a relative humidity greater than 60 percent. Unfortunately, those who are affected most by the heat tend to be the very young and the very old.Because of their size and a limited ability to sweat, children are at greater risk for heat-related illnesses. They can’t adapt to higher temperatures as well as adults can so parents and coaches should take measures to prevent heat injury during the next several months.

opens in a new windowHeat exhaustion is far more common than heat stroke and can rapidly occur when exposed to high temperatures and humidity. The basic problem is a result of losing fluids and electrolytes such as sodium and water through the process of sweating. Water depletion is especially common in the elderly and in those taking medications such as diuretics. Physicians who have their patients on medications such as diuretics need to monitor their patients closely—adjusting their medications appropriately.

People with heat exhaustion often complain of overwhelming fatigue, weakness and dizziness. They may have nausea and vomiting as well as complain of a headache and muscle aches. They sweat profusely and crave water. Their body temperature is elevated but usually less then 103 degrees F.

If you experience these symptoms, find an air-conditioned room and remove all unnecessary clothing while wetting yourself down. It may be difficult to replace the fluids you have lost if you are nauseated and vomiting. You may need to pay a visit to your physician or the emergency room in order to replace the fluids and electrolytes lost if the nausea and vomiting persist.

Heat stroke is far more serious and will require emergency treatment in order to rapidly cool the body and replace lost fluids. It occurs when the bodies own ability to regulate body heat has malfunctioned resulting in a rise in body temperature. These patients will be confused, disoriented and may lose consciousness. Their skin is usually dry, hot and flushed and their body temperature is often greater than 105 degrees F. People with diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or alcoholism seem to be more prone to heat stroke and should take extra care of themselves during these hot and humid days.

Common sense is the best prevention during a heat wave. You should allow yourself to get use to the hot weather by properly conditioning yourself while modifying your activity level. Dress appropriately with loose-fitting, open weave, light-colored clothing. Try to keep as much skin exposure as possible while using proper sun block in order to protect your skin from damaging sunrays.

The most important factor in preventing heat stress is to make sure that you have adequate fluid replacement. Try to avoid dehydration during your outdoor activity or exercise by drinking at least 8 oz. of fluid every 15 minutes. Sport drinks such as Gatorade or Allsport are wonderful sources of fluid replacement and may replace your electrolytes lost in the process of sweating. We can withstand the high temperatures associated with a heat wave as long as Sweating continues and water and sodium are replaced.

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