Of all the summer safety issues that can occur, heatstroke is among the most dangerous.
In fact, it can actually lead to death if not properly treated! Children are at a particularly high risk. Fortunately, although heatstroke is incredibly severe, it is also fairly easy to prevent if you follow basic summer safety tips. Understanding the signs, risk factors and how to treat heatstroke could help save a life.
What is a Heatstroke?
Heatstroke happens when your body’s natural defenses against hot temperatures fail. The human body is meant to function best at approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (about 37 Celsius). Anything too much hotter or colder than this can interrupt normal processes and functioning. Under normal circumstances, your body’s sweating mechanisms do a fairly good job of regulating your body temperature. During a heatstroke, your temperature can rise to as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit (about 41 Celsius) in as little as ten minutes! If not treated quickly, this can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Extreme heat is the biggest culprit in causing heatstroke. Excessive exercise during even a moderate heat wave can also cause it. Your body can’t keep up with the demand to lower your temperature, which leads to the condition. The higher the temperature, the greater the risk of developing heatstroke. Take a look at the chart from the National Weather Service to get an idea of just how dangerous the temperatures are in your area. If you’re in a high danger area, step up your summer safety plan to full-gear to avoid heatstroke and other illnesses!
Heatstroke Risk Factors
While everyone is at risk for heatstroke, some groups of people are at higher risk. These groups include, according to the CDC :
- Children younger than age 4
- Overweight people
- Adults older than 65
- Those suffering from certain medical conditions
Certain medications can also increase the risk of heatstroke. Although adults are at risk, they are typically able to let someone know there is a problem. Young children-especially infants- are particularly vulnerable because they may not be able to say “mom, I’m really hot!” It is extremely important to follow good summer safety practices and remain observant when watching your child play in the hot weather.
Signs and symptoms of heatstroke
Keep in mind that not everyone reacts the same way, so these symptoms can vary. Typically, heatstroke presents with the following symptoms:
- A body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 Celsius)
- Lack of sweating. Instead, skin appears red and dry.
- Fast pulse that feels “bounding.” You may even be able to see it!
- Extreme headache that throbs.
- Mental confusion
- Loss of consciousness
Lack of sweating may be one of the first things you notice. If your child has been sweating and suddenly stops despite the fact that she’s still exposed to the same temperatures, it is definitely cause for concern. In younger children, it can be difficult to know if they’re experiencing dizziness or confusion. For children that are walking, keep an eye on their coordination. If your typically graceful ballerina suddenly starts zigzagging all over the place, take a closer look at the situation.
The most important thing to remember is that heatstroke is a summer safety emergency situation and should be treated as such. Call 911 immediately. While waiting for an ambulance, try to cool the victim down by moving him to a shady area, spraying with cool water (just watch the nose and mouth) or immersing him into the shallow end of the pool (again, make sure to avoid drowning the victim!). Basically, anything you can do to help lower the body temperature while waiting for help is a good thing. Even placing towels soaked with cool water on his body can help. Offer cool fluids to drink if the victim is conscious. Just do not give alcohol or caffeinated beverages. Water is best.
Summer Safety Tips to Prevent heatstroke
Prevention is really the best way to avoid heat-related illnesses. In most cases, it’s not difficult to prevent heatstroke. Common sense goes a long way.
- If it’s incredibly hot outside and you’re in one of the high-risk groups, don’t plan a day of extreme exercise.
- Engage in family fitness activities that help cool you down rather than heat you up.
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
- Take frequent breaks to duck into an air-conditioned room or sit in front of a cooling fan.
- Dress appropriately in loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
- Do not leave anyone in a parked car, even if it is in the shade.
Those who take certain medications or have medical conditions will need to talk to their doctor to find out more ways to prevent heatstroke.
With blisteringly hot temperatures becoming the norm during the summer across much of North America, staying cool is becoming increasingly challenging. Do you have any easy summer safety tips to help avoid conditions like heatstroke?