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Heat Stroke

During the summer months, it can be all too easy to suffer from heat stroke. But what is this condition exactly, and how can you prevent it?

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What Is Heat Stroke?

According to Mayo Clinic, heat stroke is a form of heat injury in which your body temperature increases to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It usually occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to, or physical exercise in, high temperatures. Left untreated, heat stroke can damage your heart, brain, muscles and kidneys ━ so it requires immediate treatment.

Besides a high core temperature, the symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Alteration in perspiration: Your skin will either feel hot and dry or hot and slightly moist.
  • Changed behavior or mental state: Irritability, agitation, confusion, delirium and slurred speech can all be signs of heat stroke.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Flushed skin
  • Severe headache

Some people are more at risk for heat stroke than others. Infants and seniors are most at risk. In addition, you may have a higher risk if you suffer from a chronic condition such as obesity, heart disease or lung disease, or if you take certain medications that increase the impact of extreme heat.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following tips for preventing heat stroke:

  • Stay informed: Check the local news for heat alerts so you can prepare accordingly.
  • Stay in a cool place: It's best to remain in an air-conditioned space. If you don't have AC at home, go to a public library, shopping mall or local heat relief shelter.
  • Dress appropriately: Wear loose-fitting, light-colored and lightweight clothing.
  • Wear broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher: This will help prevent sunburn, which can adversely impact your body's ability to cool down.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids ━ even if you're not thirsty. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks and opt instead for sports drinks with additional minerals and salts. Also, make sure your children and pets drink enough.
  • Schedule any outdoor activities carefully: Exercise during the early morning and evening hours, when it's cooler.
  • Pace yourself: Reduce how much you exercise and rest often ━ preferably in shady areas.

What to Do If You Have Heat Stroke

If you suspect you're overheating, go to a shady spot or get indoors as soon as possible. Remove all excess clothing and cool yourself down. You can do this by taking a cool shower or bath or by placing ice packs on your neck, head, armpits and groin. Seek medical attention as soon as possible to minimize the chances of lasting health complications.

Heat stroke might seem relatively harmless but can cause serious and long-lasting damage to your health. So, keep these tips in mind to minimize the chances of you or your loved suffering from this heat-related illness.

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