Healthy Headlines - June 2012

6/5/2012

“Hot ‘nuff for ya?”

Now that the month of June is upon us and the Summer season is about to kick in we all will be hearing that question posed much more frequently.  With the increase in temperature during the summer months and the increase in outdoor activity one needs to be mindful of potential hazards.  The main concern:  heat stroke.

Most of us have either experienced this summer concern or know of an individual who had the unfortunate occurrence.  Heat stroke is a condition that can happen when people’s bodies get too hot.  Usually, this occurs when people are outside in very hot and humid conditions and are not drinking enough fluids.  However, this condition can occur with people who are not exercising as well.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency that needs to be aggressively treated.  The fact is heat stroke can lead to major complications (including death) if it is not treated immediately.  When people get too hot, they also may have, “heat cramps” and “heat exhaustion.”  These conditions are not as serious as heat stroke, but they are the warning signs of impending heat stroke if they are not treated.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?
A body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) or higher.
Neurological symptoms may include:

  • Loss of balance
  • Trouble walking
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinating (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there)
  • Passing out (fainting)
  • Seizures
When a person is experiencing heat stroke their other signs/symptoms may be:
  • Fast breathing  (greater than 30 breaths per minute)
  • Fast Heartbeat (greater than 100 beats per minute)
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Headaches
Should I see a doctor or nurse?  The short answer is yes!  Heat stroke is an emergent situation.  The person’s health can deteriorate quickly if he or she is not treated appropriately or is undertreated.  When it comes to heat stroke it is vital the person receive quick and adequate medical treatment.

How is heat stroke treated?  The first step is to cool the body.  The most common intervention is vigorous IV hydration.  This is best achieved in the hospital setting.  The other associated problems with heat stroke can be best addressed by your doctor in the hospital setting.  He or she will most likely run some blood tests to adequately quantify the person degree of heat stroke and dehydration.

Can heat stroke be prevented?
  Yes!  Being proactive will help anyone and everyone during the summer months to prevent heat stroke.  Some interventions include:
  • Take frequent breaks throughout your day.
  • Fluids, fluids, and more fluids!  Drink plenty of water or sports drinks (non-caffeinated ) throughout your day.
  • Wear light-weight, breathable clothing.  This will allow your body heat to escape while providing minimal resistance to cooler air passing through the clothes.
  • If exercising try to accomplish your routine in the early morning hours.

How can I cool my body down during the day?
  • Get into the shade for a break or get into an air-conditioned building or automobile.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • If you are wearing clothes that are layered lose the extra layers of clothing.
  • Use cold packs on your head, neck, and armpits.
  • Consider spraying yourself with water and sitting in front of a fan. This can really bring down excessive body heat.
  • Continue to drink a hearty amount of fluids (No caffeinated or alcoholic beverages as these can worsen heat stroke.)
The summers in Kansas bring some of the best times for friends and family.  These times should be thoroughly enjoyed by all.  However, when you begin to hear the friendly folks ask, “hot ‘nuff for ya?”  remember what steps to take to continue to enjoy this coming summer!

Dr. Weintz is the author of “Healthy Headlines.”  He works as a family physician at Stanton County Family Practice.

Back to News Listing