“Dad, I don’t feel good.” These words were from my oldest son, 12 at the time, after having spent a little too much time in the sun at the market. Within moments, he was pale and dizzy, sinking to the ground and muttering that he was going to vomit. Classic symptoms of heat stroke, and fortunately, my husband knew how to treat heat stroke.
He moved my son immediately to the shade and took off his shirt, sending another child to bring cold Gatorade and some water. Then he drenched my son in cool water and had him sip the Gatorade. As his core temperature began to lower, my son felt much better, but he had a quick trip to the hospital anyway, just to make sure he was okay. He was, thanks to my husband’s fast acting.
How to Treat Heat Stroke
Before you start treating sun stroke or heat stroke, it’s essential that you know what it looks like. Often, this conditions is preceeded by heat cramps or heat exhaustion. It’s important to recognize these symptoms so you can treat before it reaches a dangerous point.
When left untreated, heat stroke can lead to neurological damage and even a coma.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke usually happens when you have been in the heat too long. It’s also referred to as sunstroke. The main symptom is an internal temperature of over 104°F. Since you probably aren’t checking temperatures on a regular basis, here are the more obvious symptoms:
- Muscle cramps
- Throbbing headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hot, dry skin (no sweating, despite the heat)
- Fast heartbeat
- Rapid breathing, usually shallow
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of balance
- Confusion or disorientation
If you can, take the person’s temperature and see if it’s over 104°.
How to Treat Heat Stroke
As soon as you suspect someone has heat stroke, call emergency services and begin first aid. Fast attention can mean everything. In an emergency situation, where there are no options for emergency services, you may need to do everything yourself.
Step One: Move the Patient to a Cool Area
Take the patient to the coolest place nearby. This may be an air conditioned room (ideal) or a shady spot. If there is running water nearby, this is also a good option, while keeping the patient’s head out of the water, of course.
Step Two: Bring the Core Temperature Down
Fans and cool water can help bring the person’s temperature down to safe levels. You can also place ice at the wrists, back of the neck, and armpits to cool the blood. Laying damp fabric over the patient’s bare skin and fanning can help cool faster, as well.
NEVER place a patient in very cold water or ice water to cool them down. While some cases can use this method, it can be very dangerous and so should be avoided.
Preventing Heat Stroke
When the heat index is high, it’s a good idea to stay in cooler areas. If you’re bugging out, for example, during the summer, it’s better to walk at night instead of midday. When possible, spend the hottest hours of the days in the house or under shelter. If you and your family must be outdoors in the sun, be sure to wear light colored clothing, a hat, and long sleeves if possible.
Dehydration plays a big part in heat stroke, so be sure to stay hydrated, especially when playing sports. It can be tough to get kids to drink water, so here are a few ideas on getting them to do that.
Heat stroke is dangerous in a world where hospitals and ambulances exist, so imagine what could happen if there is a massive disaster and you can’t get your family medical attention. Prevention is always best