By: Dr. Nick Karr from Sinai Urgent Care
Would you be able to identify if you or someone else was experiencing heat exhaustion or suffering a heat stroke? Being active outdoors in Texas has its challenges, the most obvious one being how to beat the heat and stay safe by keeping cool. It is important for all individuals participating in activities occurring in the heat to understand both heat exhaustion and heat stroke. For your well being, let’s discuss how to prevent, recognize, and treat both heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Before we get into the specifics of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, it’s worth discussing the ways to protect yourself and others from extreme temperatures. First and foremost, it’s critical to drink plenty of water and maintain a supply of water close by while in the heat. By staying hydrated, your body is best able to sweat and maintain a normal body temperature. Another way to protect yourself is by protecting yourself from the sun. Sunburns can negatively affect how your body is able to cool itself, leaving you more susceptible to heat exhaustion. At a minimum, choose a sunscreen with an spf of at least 15. For extra protection, consider wearing a wide brim hat and sunglasses. The highest level of coverage comes from wearing lightweight clothing. Loose and lightweight apparel with moisture wicking allows your body to breathe and cool itself off quickly and efficiently while in the extreme heat. Now that you have a stronger understanding of some of the ways to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, let’s go more in depth with each condition.
Let’s first discuss heat exhaustion. While heat exhaustion can be brought on from an individual being exposed to high temperatures, it also presents itself with exposure to lower temperatures with participants that are physically active. Heat exhaustion is the less severe of the two heat-related conditions, but this does not mean it can be ignored. When someone is experiencing heat exhaustion their symptoms can include feeling light headed or dizzy, having cool or clammy skin, nausea and or vomiting, an increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, muscle cramps, or fatigue. If you or someone else is experiencing the symptoms of heat exhaustion, it is critical to move them to a cooler location as soon as possible. To continue treating heat exhaustion, think rehydration! Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly those enriched with electrolytes is vital to begin the process of rehydrating your body! At the same time, continue to continue to focus on cooling your body down with a cold shower or bath, or by applying cool compresses against your body.
Another treatment option for heat exhaustion is to visit Sinai Urgent Care. Sinai Urgent Care has 5 clinics across the DFW metroplex. The 5 clinics are located in Fort Worth, Hurst, Park Cities, Dallas, and Murphy. At all 5 locations our experienced medical staff is prepared to help and ease the situation. Based on the situation our medical team will choose the best plan of action for the patient. This plan of action could include providing ice packs to help the body begin to cool or an IV to ensure the body begins to rehydrate.
Now let’s discuss heat stroke and its severity. Heat stroke is the more severe form of the heat-related conditions. A heat stroke is caused when heat exhaustion is left untreated and continued exposure to extreme temperatures persists. When there is a progression from heat exhaustion to heat stroke, an individual will continue to have the heat exhaustion symptoms along with new neurological systems. The neurological symptoms can include a severe throbbing headache, an altered mental status, or a loss of consciousness. Heat stroke can also cause other symptoms such as a very high fever and red hot dry skin.
If you or someone else may be experiencing a heat stroke, it’s critical to be seen in a hospital as soon as possible. Heat stroke can be treated in any emergency room, and ideally you should call 911 for severe symptoms suggestive of heat stroke. It is of the utmost importance for the individual to go to the hospital as soon as possible, so that medical staff can quickly assess a patient’s needs for fluid and electrolyte replacement, as well as in order to rapidly cool the patient, while simultaneously monitoring the patient to ensure they are adequately cooled and rehydrated.
With a strong understanding of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, you are protecting yourself and others from succumbing to the severe temperatures the Texas heat can bring. Be sure to utilize the prevention techniques we discussed and always be on the lookout for potential symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Be careful and practice safety always!