Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat injury, can be fatal without proper medical treatment. Milder heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion, often progress to heat stroke if left untreated. Learn how to spot heat stroke and avoid activities that could lead to this heat injury.
Signs of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature regulation system fails. It results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, usually in combination with dehydration. When spending time in hot environments, watch for these signs of heat stroke in yourself and others:
- Body temperature of 104 degrees or higher
- Throbbing headache
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Hot, red skin
- Muscle cramps or weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Confusion and disorientation
How to Avoid Heat Stroke
Instances of heat stroke are closely tied to the heat index, or how hot you feel based on the air temperature and relative humidity. If the heat index climbs to 90 degrees or higher during a heat wave, go to a comfortable, air-conditioned place until the temperature cools down. If you must go outside, avoid heat stroke with these tips:
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater.
- Drink at least 24 ounces of water within two hours of exercising. Then, drink 8 ounces of water or electrolyte-rich sports drinks every 20 minutes during exercise.
- Consider rescheduling outdoor exercise to early morning or after sunset.
Heat Stroke in Elderly People
Heat stroke most often affects athletes and people over age 65, especially if they don’t have air conditioning. Older individuals are more vulnerable to heat stroke because their bodies adjust to rising temperatures more slowly than younger people. Many seniors also have underlying health conditions or take medications that make them less able to adapt to heat. If you have an elderly family member or neighbor, check on them often during heat waves.
Medications that Raise the Risk of Heat Stroke
Certain medications change the body’s response to heat. These include:
- Diet pills
- Seizure medications (anticonvulsants)
- Heart and blood pressure medications (including beta-blockers and vasoconstrictors)
- Medications for psychiatric illnesses (including antidepressants and antipsychotics)
- Some illegal drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine
Check with your doctor to see if any of your medications or health conditions could decrease your ability to cope with high heat and humidity.
Heat Stroke Emergency Care in Texas
If you or someone you’re with is experiencing heat stroke symptoms, visit the nearest emergency room for medical care. Exceptional Emergency Center is a freestanding emergency clinic providing heat stroke treatment in 13 locations across Texas. We accept walk-ins 24/7, and we offer shorter wait times than a hospital ER. To inquire about our emergency room services, please contact us today.