What to do during a heatstroke and how to prevent it

With the hottest season of the year in progress, Mumbaikar’s are bracing themselves to deal with the extremities that summer brings. Although, it’s a great time for a range of activities, like sports, vacation time etc., summer brings along several health problems. Number one on that list is the probability of experiencing a ‘heatstroke’

What to do during a heatstroke and how to prevent it
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What is a heatstroke?

A heatstroke is a result of prolonged exposure to extremely high temperatures, and is earmarked as a medical emergency. Usually combined with dehydration, this ultimately leads to a failure of the body’s temperature control system.

The core body temperature stretches farther than 40 degrees Celsius, which is a hallmark symptom of a heatstroke, involving complications in the central nervous system.

A heatstroke generally occurs when the body runs out of its water and salt content, therefore, causing one to stop sweating. Common symptoms include disorientation, confusion, nausea, seizures, loss of consciousness and sometimes can result in a person slipping into a coma. Fainting can be regarded as the first sign. Other symptoms may include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Experiencing muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioural changes such as confusion and disorientation
  • Fits
  • Unconsciousness

Treatment

Following these 6 steps will help treat the affected person efficiently:

  • Once a heat stroke is diagnosed, immediately admit the person to a hospital
  • Till medical aid arrives, shift them to a cool place
  • Get them to lie down and make sure to elevate their feet at a certain height
  • Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks can be given if the person is conscious and alert
  • If unconscious, take them to a nearest doctor to start IV fluids
  • Gradually cool the body with ice packs, spray or sponge them with cool water

To help prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially before and during exercise. It is recommend to drink at least 8 glasses of water every day, fruit juices are add-ons
  • Take frequent cool baths or showers; make sure you are adequately rested
  • Eat light, hydrating and nutritious meals – cucumber, watermelon, coconut, bell peppers are high in water content, and should be consumed
  • Wear light-coloured and loose clothing, preferably in cotton fabric
  • Sprinkle water over skin or clothes when outdoors for prolonged hours
  • Avoid venturing out in the sun between 11am and 3pm, using an umbrella or a cap is advisable
  • Avoid consuming excess alcohol, sugary drinks and too much caffeine, as they cause extreme dehydration
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, in a small room or outdoors during hot hours
  • Never leave kids or older adults in a parked car without ventilation
  • Watch for signs of dehydration in kids and elderly people

The author is a chief Intensivist and a physician working with Fortis Hospital, Kalyan