Heatstroke: Precautionary steps can save lives

June 20, 2015 Off By Web Desk

Karachi: Ongoing heat weave in Karachi during last three days has claimed more than 200 lives, which is a healthcare emergency. The government hospitals traditionally lack proper facilities and health department unable to assess such weather related emergencies in advance and take befitting steps. However, people can themselves takes precautionary steps at homes and workplaces to save lives.

According to CDC, heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Symptoms of heat stroke include: Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating; hallucinations; chills; throbbing headache; high body temperature; confusion/dizziness, and slurred speech.

Take the following steps to treat one with heat stroke: Call hospital emergency or ambulance service if available in area; move the sick person to a cool shaded area, and cool him or her using methods such as:

Soaking their clothes with water; spraying, sponging, or showering them with water and fanning their body. Remove excess clothing. Cool the person with whatever means available — put in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray with a garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck, armpits and groin.

Heatstroke can result in a number of complications, depending on how long the body temperature is high.

Without a quick response to lower body temperature, heatstroke can cause your brain or other vital organs to swell, possibly resulting in permanent damage. Without prompt and adequate treatment, heatstroke can be fatal.

Heatstroke treatment centers on cooling your body to a normal temperature to prevent or reduce damage to your brain and vital organs. To do this, your doctor may take these steps:

Immerse you in cold water. A bath of cold or ice water can quickly lower your temperature.

Use evaporation cooling techniques. Some doctors prefer to use evaporation instead of immersion to lower your body temperature. In this technique, cool water is misted on your skin while warm air fanned over your body causes the water to evaporate, cooling the skin.

Pack you with ice and cooling blankets. Another method is to wrap you in a special cooling blanket and apply ice packs to your groin, neck, back and armpits to lower your temperature.

If treatments to lower your body temperature make you shiver, your doctor may give you a muscle relaxant, such as a benzodiazepine. Shivering increases your body temperature, making treatment less effective.

Home treatment isn’t sufficient for heatstroke. If you have signs or symptoms of heatstroke, seek emergency medical help. Others should take steps to cool you off while waiting for emergency help to arrive.

If you notice signs of heat-related illness, lower your body temperature and prevent your condition from progressing to heatstroke. In a lesser heat emergency, such as heat cramps or heat exhaustion, the following steps may lower your body temperature:

Get to a shady or air-conditioned place. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, go someplace with air conditioning, such as the mall, movie theater or public library.

Cool off with damp sheets and a fan. If you’re with someone who’s experiencing heat-related symptoms, cool the person by covering him or her with damp sheets or by spraying with cool water. Direct air onto the person with a fan.

Take a cool shower or bath. If you’re outdoors and not near shelter, soaking in a cool pond or stream can help bring your temperature down.

Rehydrate. Drink plenty of fluids. Also, because you lose salt through sweating, you can replenish salt and water with some sports drinks. If your doctor has restricted your fluid or salt intake, check with him or her to see how much you should drink and whether you should replace salt.

Don’t drink sugary or alcoholic beverages to rehydrate. These drinks may interfere with your body’s ability to control your temperature. Also, very cold drinks can cause stomach cramps.

Heatstroke is predictable and preventable. Take these steps to prevent heatstroke during hot weather:

Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly.

Protect against sunburn. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself, so protect yourself outdoors with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or sweating.

Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature.

Never leave anyone in a parked car. This is a common cause of heat-related deaths in children. When parked in the sun, the temperature in your car can rise 20 degrees F (more than 6.7 C) in 10 minutes.

It’s not safe to leave a person in a parked car in warm or hot weather, even if the windows are cracked or the car is in shade. When your car is parked, keep it locked to prevent a child from getting inside.

Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day. If you can’t avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, drink fluids and rest frequently in a cool spot. Try to schedule exercise or physical labor for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening.