As the summer months roll in and the temperature starts to rise, one thing to be wary of is heat stroke, also known as sunstroke. It is a severe type of heat injury and is usually considered a medical emergency. If you suspect a friend or family member has heat stroke, it is recommended you dial 911 and offer basic first aid while you wait for assistance. However, there are some steps you can take to prevent heat stroke, and your local pharmacy has everything you need to protect yourself.
What are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Heat Stroke often progresses from milder heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion, but it can come on without the presence of these more minor complaints, so it is a good idea to know how to recognize the key symptoms. In terms of its medical definition, heat stroke is marked by a core body temperature of 104 degrees coupled with complications in the central nervous system. Aside from this elevated temperature, there are other signs to look out for:
- A Throbbing Headache
- Dizzy Spells or Light-Headedness
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Rapid, Shallow Breathing
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Red, Hot, and Dry Skin
- Confusion or Disorientation
How is Heat Stroke Treated?
As noted, heat stroke can be incredibly serious and can result in damage to the brain, internal organ failure or even death. It is important not to delay seeking medical attention, and you should dial 911 immediately. However, in the meantime, it is possible to offer some first aid while waiting on paramedics.
The most important thing is to try to reduce the core body temperature to under 101 degrees. It is good to have a thermometer in your first aid kit in preparation for the hotter weather, and you can pick one up inexpensively at a local pharmacy. If possible, move the person to a cool shady area or air-conditioned room and remove any unnecessary clothing. You can also try these additional steps to cool the body down:
- Apply cool water to the skin with a cloth or sponge while also fanning the patient
- Place ice packs in the patient’s armpits, groin, neck, and back where is a higher concentration of blood vessels closer to the skin
- If possible, sit the patient in a cool shower
It is important to note that ice should not be used in elderly patients, very young children or anyone with a pre-existing chronic illness as this can actually cause more damage.
Preventing Heat Stroke
The best option is to try and avoid heat stroke in the first place. Those over the age of 55 and under four years of age are at the highest risk, but when the heat index is high anyone can be affected. Take some simple precautions, and you will significantly lower your chances of heat stroke and other heat-related injuries. Everything you need is readily available from a local pharmacy.
When you go outdoors be sure to dress in lightweight, light-colored clothing and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Always make sure to apply plenty of sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor of SPF30. Don’t forget to reapply this if you are out in the sun for more than an hour. It is also advisable to stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water or fruit juice. You can also avoid being outside during the hottest times of the day by making your plans for early morning or after sunset.
Don’t forget; you can always stop by your local pharmacy for advice on how to protect yourself from heat stroke and for a range of information on other health concerns you may have.
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Vaughn Pharmacy is a local, family-owned pharmacy serving the community in Powell, TN. Specializing in providing personalized and attentive prescription programs to our patients, we believe you are more than just a number – you’re part of our family!