Heat Exhaustion And Heatstroke
The terms heat exhaustion and heatstroke often makes the news during the hot summer months. They are both descriptions for a condition that very few people are aware of or are just ignorant about; however, these conditions are dangerous and can be life-threatening if symptoms are ignored.
Even in a temperate city like Colorado Springs, your body can become overheated and serious medical problems can result if you don’t pay attention to your symptoms and actively work to lower body temperature.
Heatstroke – A Life-Threatening Condition
Sunstroke or heatstroke is a life-threatening condition attributed to heat exhaustion when the body fails to regulate heat because of extended exposure to very high temperatures and physical exertion. In short, the body overheats because its thermostat stops working, at least temporarily. It is a condition associated with extreme exposure to too much heat, be it from the sun or any other type of hot environment, and the inability of the body to cool itself through natural means.
Failure to take the necessary precautions when spending time outside during the hot summer days increases the risk of heatstroke, especially for the elderly and young children.
The body has a natural response to increasing temperature as it tries to cool itself down; not being able to regulate the temperature within the normal range results in heatstroke.
Heat Exhaustion – The First Signs
Overheating the body can also result in heat exhaustion, which is a precursor to heatstroke. This is where the body experiences a rapid loss of fluids and salt when sweating, making it weak as the body temperatures keep rising, ultimately resulting in heatstroke if warning signs are ignored.
Typical symptom of heat exhaustion include
- Muscle cramps
- Light headedness
- Profuse sweating
The Young And The Old Are Especially Vulnerable
Babies, children and the elderly are considered more vulnerable to heat exhaustion, heatstroke or other heat-related disorders, due to inefficiencies of their heat-regulating mechanisms. For instance, it is the slow reaction of these temperature-regulating mechanisms that cause the elderly to wear warm clothes even during the hot day because they feel cold, which increases the risk of overheating.
Other notable factors associated with cases of heat exhaustion or heatstroke include heavy consumption of alcohol, poor response to heat, obesity, and being frequently feverish.
The Symptoms of Heatstroke Include:
- High body temperate (above 104F or 41C)
- An irregular response of the nervous system
- Absence of sweat
The Body’s Response To Lower Core Temperatures
The body’s response to the increased heat levels is an increase in blood flow to the skin for a cooling effect, increased rate of perspiration and an increased breathing rate to encourage you exhale warm air and breathe in cooler air to help cool the body. At the point when these mechanisms get overwhelmed and fail to work, the body experiences heatstroke. These mechanisms to attempt to cool the overheated body are early signs of sunstroke and should never go unaddressed.
For effective heat loss, the body has two built-in means to lower core temperatures. Your body will trigger the dilation of blood vessels that are closest to the skin’s surface to allow for more blood flow for cooling. But this may not be as effective if the air or surrounding environment is hot and humid. These conditions inhibit the efficiency of the increased blood flow and sweat production that are designed to bring the body’s temperature back to normal.
If allowed, then the body starts to cool down and the heatstroke crisis can be averted.
Overheating The Body Can Get Out Of Control
The loss of too much fluid decreases the volume of blood which plays a role in the increased body temperature. The unchecked or continued generation of heat, if faster than the rate of heat loss, causes the core temperature to rise, resulting in heatstroke.
If heatstroke is not treated before it is full-blown, the risk of death is high, up to 20% die due to the high levels of heat trapped within their bodies.
Moreover, it is possible for those fortunate enough to successfully treat heatstroke to battle with other problems such as balance issues and coordination for several months. Prompt treatment is advisable because it increases the chances of a speedy and full recovery.
When To See A Doctor
Seeking immediate medical attention is essential when the body starts having a high temperature that seems not to subside or any of the above symptoms manifest. A person showing such signs should be undressed and covered in a thin sheet and doused in cold water continuously. The drop in body temperature should be check so that it is not dramatic and does not fall below 102F or 39C to prevent the person from going into shock. Getting the person is a cold shower or tub helps.
As with any health concerns, prevention always is better than cure. During the hot days of summer, it is essential to drink plenty of water, wear a hat and cool clothing and avoiding long hours in the sun.
As always, if you can safely come in to ER Specialists Urgency Center, we’d love to get you feeling better – fast!