With a large part of the U.S. sweltering under high temperatures, it’s important to recognize the warning signs of heatstroke and take measures to avoid it. Outdoor workers face a double whammy: lots of exposure to heat while engaging in physical exertion.
What it is:
Heatstroke occurs when your body overheats due to prolonged exposure or physical exercise during hot conditions. If not treated promptly, heatstroke can damage the major organs and even cause death.
The key is to recognize the symptoms. Milder signs include muscle cramps and feeling faint or exhausted. A headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat and disorientation may also occur.
Preventive measures are simple: keep hydrated and take breaks in the shade or indoors.
What to do if you think someone is having a heat stroke?
- Call 911 immediately – or get them to a hospital yourself. A delay seeking medical help can be fatal.
- Move the person to an air-conditioned environment -- or at least a cool, shady area
- Remove any unnecessary clothing.
- Wet his or her skin with water
- Apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
- Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water.
- If the person is young and heathy and suffered heat stroke while exercising vigorously -- what’s known as exertional heat stroke -- you can use an ice bath to help cool the body.
- Do not use ice for older patients, young children, patients with chronic illness, or anyone whose heat stroke occurred without vigorous exercise. Doing so can be dangerous.
- If emergency response is delayed, call the hospital emergency room for additional instructions.