We’re all outside more this time of year, enjoying ballgames, working in the garden or relaxing at the lake or pool. While it’s great to get outdoors, it’s important to be mindful of staying hydrated and safe to avoid heat stroke, especially with the warmer temperatures that summer brings.
Dr. David Holder of Lexington Medical Center's Emergency Department said that heat stroke is a common, but preventable condition where the body overheats to dangerous levels.
“Children, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions are most at risk, but heat stroke can affect anyone,” said Dr. Holder. “Knowing how to spot the warning signs is important because heat-related illness can be treated effectively when caught early.”
Heat stroke usually starts as heat illness or heat exhaustion. The body temperature rises to high levels in response to excessive heat exposure. Early symptoms include weakness, sweating, nausea, dizziness, thirst and a bad headache.
“If you begin experiencing signs of heat illness, it’s important to take action to lower your body temperature,” said Dr. Holder. “Get out of the heat and into the air conditioning, or use a damp washcloth or fan to cool yourself. Drink fluids like water, but avoid soda, caffeine and alcohol because they pull more water out of your body.”
Heat stroke can result from prolonged heat illness and carries many of the same signs and symptoms, only worse. These include muscle weakness, cramps, vomiting, confusion, increase in heart rate, headache, and in serious cases, loss of consciousness.
Since heat stroke can progress quickly, Dr. Holder recommends getting to a cool, shady place, slowing drinking fluids and even taking a cold shower or bath. If you don’t cool down and start to feel better, seek medical attention.
Other simple common sense tips to prevent heat stroke include:
- Avoid prolonged time in the heat, especially on days when the heat index is high
- Stay hydrated (if you have fluid or dietary restrictions, check with your physician first before increasing your fluid intake)
- Take breaks from outdoors activity - instead of mowing the yard all at once, take a break. Go inside, cool off and have a glass of water
- Avoid strenuous exercise for prolonged periods of time
- Exercise early in the morning or later in the day when the temperature is lower
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing made of breathable fabrics
- If you don’t have air conditioning, take a cold shower or sponge bath
- Be especially cautious if you are taking blood pressure or heart medication or diuretics
- Never leave anyone unattended in a vehicle in hot weather
We can all keep summer safe and fun by following these heat stroke awareness and prevention tips. Stay smart outdoors!