Roll out the beach mats, summer is here! Whether you’re hitting the golf course, grilling in the backyard, taking a bike ride, or building a sandcastle with the grandkids, you’re going to be feeling the heat for the next few months, and we want you to do it safely! Longer, hotter days are the perfect storm for heat stroke, but luckily you can predict and prevent it.
What is Heat Stroke?
The most serious form of heat injury, heat stroke is a condition caused by your body overheating. Usually this is a result of prolonged exposure to hot temperatures or the result of overexertion in high temperatures, such as exercising too long and too hard in the sun.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If left untreated, it can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles, and it can result in seizures, a coma, or even death.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Symptoms to look out for include:
- A significant increase in body temperature (generally above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) is a major sign of heat stroke
- Changes in mental state or behavior, such as becoming confused, distressed, irritable, agitated, or combative
- Slurred speech
- Red, hot, and dry skin or a lack of sweating even though the temperatures are high
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling faint and, in some cases, losing consciousness
- Flushed skin (similar to when your cheeks quickly get red when you are embarrassed)
- Breathing that becomes rapid and shallow (quick and short)
- A racing heartbeat
- A throbbing headache
If you or someone you are with seems to be exhibiting these symptoms, get them to the nearest emergency room or call 911 right away. While you are waiting for help, get them out of the sun and into the coolest area you can find, preferably in air conditioning.
Do everything possible to cool them off, which may include: removing any excess clothing; putting them in a cool tub of water or a cool shower; spraying them with a garden hose; fanning air over the person while wetting their skin or misting it with cool water; applying a cold, wet cloth or ice packs if you have them to the neck, armpits, and groin.
To help prevent heat stroke, follow these tips from the Mayo Clinic:
- Wear breathable, loose-fitting clothing to allow your body to cool properly.
- Protect your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 and generously apply and reapply at least every two hours.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids so your body can sweat and maintain a normal body temperature.
- Be especially careful if you are on medications that prevent your body’s ability to stay hydrated and cool.
- Never leave anyone in a parked car. In warm or hot weather, it’s not safe to leave anyone in a parked car, even if it’s in the shade with the windows cracked.
- Limit time spent working outside to early mornings or evenings when the temperatures are cooler. If you are not used to the heat, give yourself time to become accustomed to it before spending too much time outdoors.
- Always take extra precautions if you have conditions or illnesses that can be negatively affected by the heat.
Don’t Forget the Pets
If you have your pets outside with you, remember they are vulnerable to the effects of hot weather, too. For example, dogs can suffer from sunburn, foot pad burns, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Look for symptoms of heat exhaustion such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, rapid panting, and the skin inside the ears reddening. Just as you would with a human, try to reduce the animal’s body temperature as quickly as possible to prevent heat stroke.
Carry along water for your pets and keep them well hydrated. Take breaks in the shade and keep in mind that hot sidewalks and pavement can burn their foot pads. Finally, do not leave your pets in a parked car.
Beat the Heat
Remember, you don’t have to sacrifice outdoor activities just because temperatures rise, but you do want to make smart choices that help you keep your cool!