Guest Author - Beverly Patchell
The adolescent years provide many things for parents to worry about and excessive heat becomes a concern during summers like this one, with record heat and humidity across large sections of the nation. Adolescents involved in sports practice year round, with fall football practice ready to go into full action. Summer vacations in a different climate can lead to heat issues, too, especially if the home climate is much milder or less humid.
This article is going to give you some basics on the most dangerous form of overheating, heatstroke. It can come on quickly, is a medical emergency, and does not always follow the progression of heat cramps to heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Many factors play into the level of dangerousness of the condition and the ones covered will focus on those most likely to affect adolescents.
PubMed provides the following information about heat stroke:
Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia (abnormally elevated body temperature) with accompanying physical and neurological symptoms. Unlike heat cramps and heat exhaustion, two less-severe forms of hyperthermia, heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not properly and promptly treated.
The body normally generates heat as a result of metabolism, and the body is usually able to dissipate the heat by either radiation of heat through the skin or by evaporation of sweat. However, in extreme heat, high humidity, or vigorous exertion under the sun, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat and the body temperature rises, sometimes up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Another cause of heat stroke is dehydration. A dehydrated person may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which causes the body temperature to rise.
The population most susceptible to heat strokes are infants, the elderly (often with associated heart diseases, lung diseases, kidney diseases, or on certain medications that make them vulnerable to heat strokes), and athletes, or outdoor workers physically exerting themselves under the sun. Vacationers can also be susceptible and should also consider them vulnerable.
What are heat stroke symptoms?
Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. Sometimes a person experiences symptoms of heat exhaustion before progressing to heat strokes. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps and aches, and dizziness. However some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning.
Different people may have different symptoms and signs of heat stroke. But common symptoms and signs of heat stroke include:
• high body temperature
• the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin
• rapid pulse
• difficulty breathing
• strange behavior
How do you treat a heat stroke victim?
Victims of heat stroke must receive immediate treatment to avoid permanent organ damage. First and foremost, cool the victim. Get the victim to a shady area, remove clothing, apply cool or tepid water to the skin, and fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation, place ice packs under armpits and groins. Monitor body temperature with a thermometer and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102 degrees. Always notify emergency services (911) immediately. If their arrival is delayed, they can give you further instructions for treatment of the victim.
The most important measures to prevent heat strokes are to avoid becoming dehydrated, and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather. If you have to perform physical activities in hot weather, drink plenty of fluids (such as water and Gatorade), but avoid alcohol, coffee, and tea which may lead to dehydration. Take frequent breaks to hydrate yourself. Wear hats, and light colored, and light and loose clothes.
What medications make you more susceptible?
For adolescents: acne medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, some anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and diuretics are the most likely to cause increased susceptibility. Generally, medications for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and arthritis can lead to more sensitivity.
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