Dangers of overexposure to heat are real

Heat-related deaths happen every year. According the the EPA, a total of more than 9,000 Americans have died from heat-related causes since 1979. Heat stroke is serious, and needs to be treated like any other medical emergency.

We know about heat in the south! Living in Tennessee, the summers are hot and humid. If we can identify the signs of heat stroke and how to treat it, we'll be able to prevent those we love from suffering from a heat stroke.

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Those most susceptible tend to be people over the age of 50, especially those with certain diseases like cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. Small children are also at high risk as they are not as good at regulating their body temperature plus they rely on other people to help keep them safe.

What is heat stroke?

The medical community defines heat stroke as a core body temperature at or above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This is generally caused by continued exposure to high temperatures and often accompanied by dehydration. High temps can cause damage to the brain as well as other internal organs.

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How can you avoid heatstroke?

Most cases of heat stroke are preventable. Take time to protect yourself and your family by practicing these tips this summer.

  1. Drink plenty of water

  2. Make sure you have good air circulation in your home, or wherever you are.

  3. Be aware of the heat index. Risk of heat stroke increases dramatically as the heat index approaches 90 degrees. And when in direct sunlight, it can feel up to 15 degrees hotter!

  4. The humidity levels are important to watch as well. Once the humidity levels get up to 60%, it can keep the sweat from evaporating off of your body. This means your body can't cool itself down.

Symptoms of heat stroke

Even if you are being careful, heat stroke can creep up on you. If you see anyone presenting the following signs, call 911 and initiate first aid procedures. It will be important to cool the person's body down to a normal temperature.

Symptoms:

  1. Throbbing headache

  2. Dizziness and lightheadedness

  3. Lack of sweating even though it's HOT

  4. Muscle weakness

  5. Vomiting or nauseous

  6. Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak

  7. Rapid, shallow breathing

  8. Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering

  9. Seizures

  10. Unconsciousness

First aid for heat stroke:

  1. Remember, call 911 first!

  2. Move the patient to an air-conditioned place or a shady area if they are not hurt.

  3. Using a thermometer, take the patient's temperature.

  4. Encourage the patient to drink water. Dehydration is a contributing factor in most cases of heat stroke and drinking water will help bring the patient back down to a normal temperature.

  5. Fan air over the patient while wetting their skin.

  6. Apply a cool cloth to the patient's armpits, groin, neck, and back. These areas have the most blood vessels close to the skin and will cool the body faster than applying to the leg, for example.

  7. If available, put the patient in a tub or shower with cool, but not cold, water.

Heat stroke is serious, and the risk goes up with the heat index. It's important, especially during heat waves, to be aware of the heat and to take steps to prevent heat stroke.

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