The Symptoms of Heatstroke- How to Protect Yourself during a Heat Wave

The Symptoms of Heatstroke- How to Protect Yourself during a Heat Wave

The record-breaking heat is providing broiling condition to a lot of areas across the United States once again.

Since the last notable heat wave in 2011, which was the hottest during the 75 years, North Americans have been suffering from an increasingly hotter summer and spring weather.

Experts have continued warning about the heat waves and said that they may become longer and more regular in the future all across the United States

What’s even worse? This increasing temperature is a leading cause of weather-related fatalities in the United States. This mainly includes deaths due to heat strokes but also involves other issues like breathing difficulties and the exacerbation of the preexisting medical problems.

As the sweltering summer heat wave has become normal, health experts have continued to warn people about the significance of staying cool. This is particularly important for young children and the elder people.

Depending upon the age of a person, the presence of any pre-existing chronic medical issues, and the number of liquids they consume every day, heatstroke can occur in just a few hours.

How to Know if you are having a Heat Stroke

Heatstroke actually has early warning signs to look out for. If you are lucky enough to notice these signs, it can prevent complications from developing in your body.

Heatstroke often occurs when your body is unable to undergo sweating. So, it is unable to cool down the body on it’s down. The core temperature of your body starts rising rapidly making the skin dry. Eventually, it gets to your heart as the heart rate rises.

The Symptoms of Heatstroke- How to Protect Yourself during a Heat Wave

One of the symptoms developed by the patients of a heat stroke. This can sometimes even mimic an actual stroke. Other symptoms of heat exhaustion, the condition leading to a heatstroke include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • A headache
  • General weakness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • The feeling of passing out

If you notice that you or anyone around has suddenly stopped sweating, it is usually a late finding and has to be taken seriously before other neurological symptoms begin to arise, as per a professor at the Indiana University Health.

Know that a heatstroke is getting serious if you start suffering from the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Red, pale, or dry skin
  • Trouble in walking
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Dilation of the pupils
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Increase in the breathing rate
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Unconsciousness

If you or someone around you has developed any of these symptoms, call for medical help immediately as it will be life-saving for them.

How to Treat a Heatstroke

If the serious symptoms of a heat stroke begin to occur such as confusion, a racing heart rate, unconsciousness, or seizures, it is recommended to get immediate medical help.

The first thing to do is to call for the helpline according to your area. Such a person needs rapid cooling and support for their breathing in order to go through resuscitation.

The emergency medical professionals can promptly begin treatment which includes providing intravenous hydration and several other methods. When you or someone around you starts showing signs of a heatstroke, the first thing to do is to get yourself or the patient out of the heat.

Move them to a shady or cool place that is out of the sun. If possible, it is even better to get them inside an air-conditioned building. Wet their skin and fan them at the same time. Wetting their skin can occur either by applying towels or by spritzing them.

RELATED: All You Need To Know About Heat Cramps

If you have an easy access to ice packs, make sure to put them on all the key areas which include the neck, back, armpits, and the groin. Cool towels, pieces of clothing, or rags will also work for this purpose.

According to the severity of the heatstroke, recovery may take time, sometimes up to a few days. If left untreated, a heatstroke may cause long-lasting damage to the brain, kidneys, muscles, and other important organs of the body, as per the experts.

But the experts usually suggest preventing heatstroke in the first place by being aware of the temperature you are exposing your body to and all the preventive measures.

The preventive measures are simple and include drinking lots of cool fluids as you stay in heat. Water works best but low-sugar sports drink can also be of help, particularly when you have been working outside in the heat for more than 60 minutes or have been working out.

This is because low-sugar drinks can help in replacement of the electrolytes that your body lost during exercise.

If you have to work out when a heat wave has been declared, prefer doing it before sunrise as the levels of humidity is low at that time. Do not go for sugary drinks or alcohol in the heat as it may lead to further dehydration because if excessive water loss.

For older people, the homeless, and those who do not have any access to air-conditioning, there are some cooling stations in specific cities.

The Symptoms of Heatstroke- How to Protect Yourself during a Heat Wave

When the weather is hot, be sure to check on the seniors to make sure they are okay. Ensure that they have sufficient access to cool fluids and air conditioning. It is also important to have a response plan against heat for reducing the incidences of heatstroke to develop in the first place.

Does a Heatstroke Affect Children and Seniors Differently?

Seniors and children have a lot of things in common when it comes to the risk of acquiring a stroke. This includes their dependence on others and the ability to regulate the body temperature.

As per the experts, the reason why the children, as well as the elderly, are unable to regulate the temperature of their own bodies is that of the high surface area to body mass ratio.

In simpler words, this means that they lack a sufficient amount of meat on their bones.

In the case of children, maintenance of hydration is also a reason. Most of the children fail to take sufficient amount of fluid during the hot season. This makes them prone to dehydration and increases their odds of getting hit by a heatstroke.

This is why it is often advised to the parents to always be aware of the status of hydration in children, particularly during heat waves.

The risk in infants and children is particularly high because they are unable to take care of themselves and always require someone looking out for them. They are also at an increased risk of a heatstroke when they are left out in a car, even if you leave the windows or doors open.

When the outside temperature hits 90 degrees, the interior of your car can go up to 110 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit within 30 minutes only. This means that such weather can be lethal for children in a matter of minutes.

In a similar manner, older people are also more susceptible to overheating and acquiring a heatstroke. This includes those who live without air conditioners or fans to cool out their homes properly.

As you age, the body tends to lose its ability to regulate the internal temperature. This is why the chances of seniors getting heatstroke are naturally high.

At the same time, most of these seniors are already taking some kind of medications which may also alter their ability to tolerate hot temperatures.


Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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