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Friday, June 27, 2008

HEATSTROKE-A True Medical Emergency

With the hot Summer months now in full swing- it is very important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of "Heatstroke". It is the most severe of the heat related problems that can occur during this time of year,and is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not treated in time. Heatstroke usually occurs during extremely hot weather associated with high humidity.Normally the human body is able to regulate body temperature through physiologic mechanisms allowing for the dissipation of heat via radiation of heat through the skin or by evaporation of sweat. Heatstroke develops when there has been a breakdown in the ability of the body to dissipate heat causing a rise in body temperatures to above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This rise in body temperature causes both physical and neurological symptoms and can lead to irreversible organ damage if not treated aggressively .Heatstroke can develop rapidly and often without warning.

Common symptoms and signs include: headache,nausea, lightheadedness or feeling dizzy,elevated body temperature, rapid,thready pulse,difficulty breathing, hot,red or flushed ,dry skin,absence of sweating, victims may start acting bizarrely,hallucinate,act confused,agitated or disoriented; seizures can occur,or victims may "pass out", faint or become comatose.

Those who are most susceptible to heatstroke: infants,young children,elderly,especially those with heart ,lung or kidney diseases,or on certain medications that make them more at risk(ie.antidepressants),athletes,outdoor workers,anyone physically exerting themselves out in hot weather

How do I treat heatstroke?

It is very important to act quickly if you suspect someone is suffering heatstroke,or exhibiting any of the above mentioned symptoms. First- COOL the victim by getting them in a shady area,remove clothing and begin to apply cool or tepid water to their skin. You can do this by spraying them with water from a garden hose, or just pouring water over them or sheets and fanning the victim to promote sweating and evaporation. Place ice packs under armpits or groin area. Call 911 immediately and continue your cooling efforts until help arrives. No alcohol rubs, and don't try to force the victim to drink water if they are not fully conscious.

How to Avoid Heatstroke?

Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water or Gatorade when out in hot,humid weather. Avoid vigorous physical activities if possible. Take frequent breaks if out in the sun,especially to hydrate yourself. Make sure that children and the elderly are watched closely for any signs of dehydration adequately protected against extreme hot environments. Wear hats, light colored,loose fitting clothes when outside. Avoid alcoholic beverages when out in hot,humid weather because of the risk of greater dehydration and causing heatstroke.

Just remember that heatstroke is the extreme of all the heat related problems that can occur during this time of year. It can be fatal! Be diligent is maintaining adequate hydration, watch out for those who are greater risk, act quickly if you suspect someone is exhibiting any of the signs and symptoms of heatstroke,and call 911 for help.

Enjoy your Summer!