Heat stroke is most likely to affect older people who live in apartments or homes lacking air conditioning or good airflow. Other high-risk groups include people of any age who don’t drink enough water, have chronic diseases, or who drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
According to Webmd.com the hallmark symptom of heat stroke is a core body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. But fainting may be the first sign.
Other symptoms may include:
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot, and dry skin
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
If you suspect heat stroke or heat exhaustion, find shade as quickly as possible, take a cool shower, spray with a cool hose and drink water. If you suspect heat stroke, get medical attention as quickly as possible.
- Apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
- Lie down and elevate your legs to get blood flowing to your heart.
- Take off any tight or extra clothing.
- Drink fluids, such as water or a sports drink. Do not guzzle them, but take sips. Do not drink fluids with caffeine or alcohol.
Call 911 if:
- Symptoms don’t improve or they still have a fever of 102°F after 30 minutes of initial treatment.
- The person goes into shock, faints, or has seizures.
- The person is not breathing. You also should begin CPR right away to try and revive them.
There are many things you can do to prevent heat-related illnesses. Babies, children, and elderly people are more sensitive to heat and require extra attention. You also are at greater risk if you are ill or obese, or have heart disease. People who work outside or in a hot setting also are at risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Don’t go outside when the temperature and heat index are high. If possible, stay indoors in air-conditioned areas. If you must go outside, take the following precautions.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat or using an umbrella.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration and lack of salt contribute to heat-related illnesses. Some sports drinks can help replenish the salt in your body lost through sweating. Drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If your urine is clear, you are probably drinking enough fluids. Dark-colored urine is a sign that you’re dehydrated.
- Avoid or limit drinks that contain caffeine (such as tea, coffee, and soda) or alcohol.
- Schedule outdoor activities for cooler times of the day — before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
- Take frequent breaks from the heat and outdoor activities.
- Do not stay or leave a child in your car when it is hot out. Even if you open the windows, the intense heat can be extremely dangerous.