It’s a scorcher out there today in Southern California and many other parts of the world…knowing how to avoid and treat heat stroke and heat exhaustion is valuable in hot climates. Heats troke has been found to effect 17 – 26 people per 100,000 in urban areas of the US, with heat illness effecting far more individuals. Elderly individuals, athletes, and young children are most at risk for developing heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature reaches temperatures of 101 – 104 degrees (F), overwhelming the thermoregulation centers of the body which is extremely dangerous and in some cases, fatal. Heat exhaustion, is a less severe form of heat stroke, and can lead to heat stroke if not handled appropriately.
Common Signs and Symptoms:
Understanding the signs and symptoms of heat stroke is valuable for those exposed to hot climates to prevent cellular injury and in worst cases, death. Common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion/heat stroke may include the following:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat/pulse
- Muscle tenderness
- Cool clammy skin
- Confusion/agitation (sign of heat stroke)
How to Handle Heat stroke / Heat Exhaustion:
For those experiencing confusion, agitation, or difficulty moving the body, receiving immediate medical attention is urgent, as IV fluid repletion is critical. For others who are experiencing symptoms associated with heat exhaustion, the following recommendations should be considered:
- Move person out of sun and into a shady/cool spot
- Drink fluids – water or electrolytes. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Loosen clothing
- Apply cool wet cloth to forehead and/or back of the neck
- Fan the person or spray with water mist to allow cooling
- Submerge body in cool water
- Lay person down and elevate legs
- Monitor the person and call 911 if they deteriorate, faint, become more confused, or start seizing
How to Avoid Heat stroke:
Avoiding heat related injury in the first place is crucial in hot climates. From dietary considerations to proper planning/packing when in warmer climates can provide a lot of protection for heat related illnesses.
- Avoiding sun exposure on hot days is the first protective measure one can take. Finding shady spots, when having to be outdoors on scorching days will help keep the body temperature in normal ranges.
- Stay in air-conditioned areas.
- Avoid or limit exercise/physical exertion outdoors on hot days.
- Keep water on you at all times – always carry water bottles (preferably non-plastic) full of water to drink and rehydrate throughout the day. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, thirst is a sign of dehydration.
- Bring a cold washcloth /towel and apply to back of the neck.
- Eat foods with salt – as prevention when in extremely hot environments. This will prevent fluid loss.
- Avoid foods/drinks containing sugar- this can potentiate fluid loss.
- Eat foods that are cooling, contain water, and disperse heat (according to chinese medicine principles) during periods of hot climates – Cucumber, lettuce, mixed greens, radish, zucchini, squash, celery, asparagus, mushrooms, cabbage, tomato, watermelon, kelp, seaweed, crab, cilantro. Raw is best, but lightly steaming these veggies is also effective.