News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
As temperatures climb, it is important to be thoughtful about the impact on your body. Heatstroke occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature. Most often, this is an outcome of prolonged exposure to high temperatures or physical exertion, and the sweat mechanism failing and the body’s inability to cool down.
It can be quite dangerous if the body’s temperature rises to 104 F (40C) or higher. In some circumstances, the temperature can rise to 104 in under 15 minutes. Heatstroke or heat injury requires emergency treatment. Left untreated, not only can it cause damage to the brain, kidneys, heart and muscles, but over time if care is delayed, the damage can become more severe and there is risk of complications or even death.
Warning signs vary, but consist of an extremely high body temperature, red, hot and dry skin, no sweating, a rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and in extreme cases losing consciousness. It’s very important to know that if you are suffering with heatstroke or see someone showing signs, it is a life-threatening emergency. If possible, move into the shade safely and call for medical assistance immediately.
If you have access to water, cool the victim immediately. If you are not near a shower, tub or hose, pour water from a water bottle onto a cloth and put that on the individual. Give them water to drink, but do not give them alcohol. If no water is accessible, fan the person vigorously.
Is there a difference between heatstroke and heat exhaustion? Yes, heat exhaustion is milder and can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures or inadequate fluids. Heat exhaustion is more likely to occur with the elderly, those with high blood pressure, or those working in a hot environment.
While similar, the warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, leg cramps, tiredness and weakness, headaches, and fainting. The best steps to take for heat exhaustion are rest, drinking plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, taking cool showers or baths, and wearing lightweight clothing.
Lesser known is something called heat cramps which occur with muscle pain and spasms usually in the arms, legs or abdomen. This is often caused by people sweating a lot during strenuous exercise which is a result of depleting the body’s salt and moisture. You likely won’t need medical attention, but should sit and drink juice or a sports beverage and refrain from strenuous activity for at least one hour until the cramping stops.
Finally, some people suffer from a skin irritant called heat rash. This can occur at any age, but is most common in young children. Heat rashes look like small red pimples or blisters, usually in a cluster. It is most predominantly found in the groin, under the breasts and in elbow creases, neck and upper chest. Keep the area clean and for best results, don’t use ointments that contain petroleum or mineral oil.
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