Heat stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the body can no longer cool itself. The body suffers from dehydration because it cannot release internal heat to the environment, resulting in a core temperature above 40 degrees C.
The scary thing is that most people don’t know they’re in danger of heatstroke, the most serious heat-related illness, until it’s too late. By then they are already confused and delusional due to nerve damage. To ensure that your health is never endangered by the heat, take preventative measures to cool down and hydrate yourself. It is also important to avoid actions that increase the risk of heat stroke, such as engaging in physical activity that increases the risk of heat illness, such as exercising in direct sunlight.
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion
Heat stroke occurs when your body’s natural processes to regulate your core temperature begin to fail due to overheating. This is the most severe phase of heat illness, when you are at risk of experiencing life-threatening symptoms.
Heat exhaustion is the phase immediately before heat stroke, when you begin to experience the signs of heat illness, such as muscle weakness and fatigue.
The body regulates core temperature to maintain a constant temperature of 37°, even in the hottest or coldest environmental conditions. To make this possible, the thermoregulatory system uses different physiological mechanisms to balance the heat produced inside the body and the amount of heat lost to the environment. When these mechanisms break down, the symptoms of heatstroke appear.
How to fight heatstroke? Here’s what happens naturally to prevent the life-threatening symptoms of heat stroke:
When the outside temperature gets too hot, temperature receptors in the skin send messages to the hypothalamus, which is the processing center of the brain.
As soon as you are too hot, you evacuate the heat by sweating and activating the muscles of your skin. Your blood vessels also begin to swell or widen, causing noticeable redness. More warm blood then circulates near the surface of your skin, so heat is lost through the skin and into the air.
The muscles in your skin help increase heat loss by causing the hairs to lie flat, rather than up, to trap more heat. Your skin glands also secrete sweat onto the surface of your skin to increase evaporative heat loss. Your body will continue to sweat, releasing internal heat, until your body temperature returns to normal.
When your body’s core temperature rises, all of the innate processes set up to regulate your internal temperature break down, creating serious and even life-threatening problems like organ damage and loss of consciousness.
Heat Stroke Symptoms
Before heat stroke symptoms develop, you will experience a few warning signs. In general, heat-related illnesses manifest in four stages, beginning with muscle cramps, leading to heat exhaustion, and ending with heatstroke.
Here is the breakdown into four stages:
1. Heat syncope (fainting)
Heat syncope, or fainting, occurs when your body attempts to cool itself, which causes blood vessels to dilate such that blood flow to the brain is reduced. This usually occurs when a person has worked outdoors or been physically active in a hot environment. In addition to fainting, a person experiencing heat syncope may feel dizzy, restless, and nauseous.
2. Heat cramps
Heat cramps, also called muscle cramps, are one of the first signs of heat illness. You may feel like you’re pulling a muscle, even if you haven’t done anything strenuous.
Muscle aches and cramps are excellent signs that you are dehydrated and that you need to cool down and drink water before your symptoms get worse.
3. Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion occurs when the heat begins to make you feel uncomfortable and sick, leading to symptoms such as the following
– profuse sweating
– changes in the pulse
– cold, pale and clammy skin
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
Heatstroke is the most serious of all heat-related illnesses. It is a medical emergency because it can lead to severe brain damage, organ failure, and even death.
The most common symptoms of heat stroke are:
a body temperature above 40°
a rapid and strong pulse
hot, red, dry, or moist skin
a severe headache
minimal or no sweating, despite the heat
nausea and vomiting
dark colored urine
loss of consciousness
Heat stroke is very serious because it can lead to organ failure and even death. It immediately affects your cognitive function and can lead to impairment.
In fact, research shows that about 20% of heatstroke patients experience long-term, irreversible brain damage. This is why some of the most common symptoms of heatstroke are delirium and confusion. Your nerve cells are especially vulnerable when the body is overheated, and your brain is made up of these nerve cells.
When you suffer from heatstroke, the blood vessels dilate and blood flow increases. It also puts a strain on the heart.
Causes and risk factors
Data shows that when the heat index is above 35 degrees C, the number of deaths from heat illness increases. When you sweat in hot weather, you lose fluids and become dehydrated. If you don’t drink plenty of water to replace these fluids, you may develop symptoms of heatstroke. There are also factors that slow down the body’s ability to release heat into the environment in its attempt to regulate its core temperature. Along with being in very high temperatures, wearing dark or heavy clothing, being in direct sunlight, and engaging in physical activity are all contributing factors.
Here are other risk factors:
People aged 65 or over
Older people, 65 or older, have a harder time feeling that their body is overheated, so they don’t react quickly to signs of heat stroke. Older adults also have a higher rate of medications that can increase the risk of heat-related illness because they interfere with how the body responds to stress and proper hydration.
infants and children
Infants and children rely on adults to keep them cool and hydrated. Additionally, they are more prone to heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses due to their larger body surface area relative to their body mass. This allows for greater heat transfer from the environment to the body. According to the researchers, children cannot evaporate heat as well as adults because little ones have a slower rate of sweating and it takes longer for them to start sweating. Children also react less to thirst and therefore may not realize that they are becoming dehydrated.
People with chronic illnesses
Research indicates that the prevalence of heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses is higher in people with lifelong medical conditions, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease. These conditions do not allow the body to adapt to changing environmental conditions as easily or quickly. People with mental illnesses are also at greater risk of heat stroke, as they may not realize when the body is overheated or dehydrated. Social isolation is associated with the adverse health effects of heat, so people who are often home alone may be more likely to develop heatstroke symptoms.
The leading cause of death or disability in athletes who train or compete in high temperatures in late summer and early fall is heat-related illness. Research suggests that the risk is particularly high in August.
People who work outdoors
heatstroke and heat-related illnesses are very common among people who work outdoors in hot climates. Workers at risk include firefighters, construction workers, farmers, soldiers, and manufacturing workers who work around process-generated heat.
When a person suffers from heatstroke, their body temperature should be lowered immediately and they should be hydrated intravenously until their fluid levels return to normal.
To prevent heatstroke naturally, drink plenty of water throughout the day, avoid dehydrating drinks, stay in an air-conditioned place, wear loose, light clothing, avoid direct sunlight, check that your medications are not not interfere with your hydration and monitor your loved ones who are at risk of heat-related illnesses.
When is it an emergency?
If you are around someone with signs and symptoms of heatstroke, such as difficulty breathing, dry skin, fatigue, muscle weakness, and delirium, call emergency services immediately. Then move the person to a cool place. Try cooling her down by applying a cold compress or an ice pack to her forehead or even pouring cool water over her body. Then wait for the professionals to take over. Do not hesitate to call the emergency services, as heat stroke is a serious medical emergency. Immediate treatment is vital.
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