Now that summer has finally arrived, it is tempting to spend as much time outdoors as we can, taking advantage of the long days and the brilliant sun. But summer can also bring with it a lot of heat, so it’s important to know how to keep cool on those hot summer days and how to recognize the signs of heat stroke.
The body normally regulates its own temperature by sweating as ambient temperatures rise. However, in cases of extreme heat, the body’s regulation mechanism can sometimes be overwhelmed, leading first to heat exhaustion and then to heat stroke if nothing is done. The danger of heat stroke is particularly risky on days that are extremely hot and humid, as excessive humidity does not allow the body to cool itself properly through sweating.
Those at greater risk of heat stroke are babies, the elderly, those with heart, kidney or lung disease, and people taking some forms of medication. When it is very hot and humid, body temperature in those affected can rise very quickly to 106 °F or more in only about 10-15 minutes. Following are some of the possible signs of heat stroke:
- Body temperature 103 °F or above
- Hot, red, dry skin, with no sweating
- Strong, rapid pulse and deep breathing
- Weak pulse and shallow breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Throbbing headache
- Lack of consciousness
Heat stroke can cause organ failure, brain damage, and eventually death if not treated promptly. If you believe someone may have heat stroke, move them to a cool or shady location and call emergency services immediately. While waiting for help, you can do some things to help minimize the damage.
Get the victim cooled down as quickly as possible; remove excess clothing and use whatever method available to reduce the victim’s body temperature. Ideally, place them in a bathtub filled with cool water. If that is not possible, a cold shower or ice packs on the head, neck, groin and armpits will help. In situations with lower humidity, you can also wrap the victim in a sheet that has been wet with cold water and turn a fan on them. If outdoors, cool water from a garden hose can be used to cool down the victim while waiting for help.
To help ensure that you do not become a victim of heat stroke yourself, be sure to keep well hydrated on hot days, wear light clothing, avoid alcohol, and seek out air-conditioned environments. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, consider going to the mall, the library or taking in a movie. Using these tips will help you to enjoy your summer safely!