Known as one of the most dangerous heat related illness, heatstroke is a medical emergency because the affected person’s life may be endangered. The victim may exhibit headaches, incoherent speech, fainting, hallucinations, convulsions and even coma in very serious cases. Body temperature can reach 40 degrees Celsius (or over). The person suffering from heatstroke is so dehydrated that his skin stops sweating and is dry and warm to the touch.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of heatstroke can, in some cases, mimic a heart attack or other medical conditions. In other situations, the patient may manifest symptoms in the first stage of heat exhaustion. The main signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion (which may precede Heatstroke) include:
- Excessive fatigue
- Muscle cramps or pain
However, some people may suddenly develop symptoms of heatstroke withot any warning signs. The most common symptoms of heatstroke include:
- High body temperature
- Absence of sweating
- Red kis and / or very dry
- Very rapid pulse rate
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual behavio
- Feeling confused
- State of shock / or coma.
Two types of heatstrokes caused by heat: the classical form and the effort form.
Classical heatstroke occurs in people who do not sweat normally, either due to illness or due to certain drugs. If a man does not sweat naturally, it is difficult to deal with a hot and humid climate. Most often, victims of heatstroke are typical older adults who do not have air conditioning and are suffering from chronic health problems such as diabetes. This type of heatstroke is very dangerous and can evolve quickly.
Effort heatstroke has a rapid onsed after just a few hours of physical activity exerted at high temperatures. Practically, although the skin is sweating, the body is overheating due to the hot weather, additional physical activity and dehydration. Effort heatstroke victims of are usually healthy young people such as athletes and football players. This type of heatstroke is triggered under conditions of excessive heat and humidity, plus intense physical effort.
The heatstroke treatment both for the classic and the effort type is the same: emergency intervention by any means available that can decrease body temperature – for example, wet compresses, a fan or ice packs applied under the armpits (attention only for short periods of time only), etc. Also, hydration is very important. Early treatment increases the survival chances of a person suffering from heatstroke.
- Some diseases increase the heatstroke risk of a person. Obesity, sweat glands diseases, diabetes, dehydration, malnutrition, hypotension, cardiovascular disorders, are making the body’s regulating capacity obsolete. In many cases, patients suffer from at least one of these diseases (especially the elderly). There are multiple possibilities that the elderly are following different drug treatments that affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
- Some drugs inhibit the activity of sweat glands. These include anticholinergics (used to treat Parkinson’s disease), antihistamines (for allergies), phenothiazines (tranquilizers), tricyclic antidepressants and diuretics. Other drugs that restrict the blood flow to the skin and affect the body’s ability to release heat are cardiovascular drugs such as beta-blockers and vasoconstrictors.
- If a person uses some of these drugs, possible adverse effects that may occur in case of heatstroke must be known very well. Those who use drugs such as LSD, cocaine and amphetamines have an increased risk of heatstroke. They increase muscle activity and body temperature rises. Excessive consumption of alcohol greatly increases the possibility for a person to suffer from heat induced diseases, due to the fact that alcohol stimulates body water removal and therefore dehydrates it.
- People with reduced mobility due to various reasons – for example, disabled, homeless and very poor ones, are prone to diseases caused by heat, because they can not afford to use air conditioning. Also, children under two years may suffer from diseases caused by hot weather because their small bodies can not regulate body temperature as efficiently as adults or older children. Because they are unable to defend against high temperatures tradedys are occurring every summer : young children die from heatstrokes (especially when they are left for short periods of time in cars).
A heatstroke victim needs immediate medical attention. The most important thing is speed: hydration and cooling of the body must take place as soon as possible to increase chances of survival.
The causes of heatstroke are:
- Warm weather
- Exercise performed in extreme heat conditions, especially people who have a diminished physical condition
- Houses or offices positionig on the upper floors of a buildings without air conditioning
- Inappropriate clothing for summer time
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Advanced age (over 65)
- High humidity
- The presence of various medical conditions: alcoholism, neurological disorders, cardiovascular diseases, skin or sweat glands diseases that can inhibit the ability of skin to sweat, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hyperthyroidism, hypokalemia (potassium deficiency), infections, drug therapy for mental illness.
- Anyone over 65 or receiving treatment for cardiovascular disorders should be very careful in hot weather. There will be no changes in treatment without medical advice. During hot weather air conditioners should be used. Outdoor exercise will be performed in the early morning, evening or later hours, when the weather is cool.
- Body must gradually adapt to heat: physical activity will gradually increase in intensity every day. Studies have shown that a person gradually getting used to hot weather increases the body’s ability to sweat, without losing salts. It takes about two to four weeks of exercise until the body will acclimate.
- Consume lots of water: for exercise, even a liter of water every hour. During gardening, however, only one cup of water sipped constantly. No one should drinq liquids only when thirsty, but before thirst is installed (dehydratation signals are beginning with the thirst sensation).
Studies have shown that water with salt prevents dehydration as effectively. Do not exaggerate with the amount of salt, too much salt increases the risk renal damage. A wide-brimmed hat to protect from sun and loose clothing to allow sweat to evaporate should be worn and lotions for protection should be applied. It is recommended to stay in rooms with air conditioning in hot days. If this is not possible take cold baths, spray the body with cold water frequently and sit near a fan.