Hyperthermia is a potentially life threatening condition caused by elevated body temperatures. Without immediate treatment stroke or death can occur. Hyperthermia is most often associated with summer heat. When the internal body temperatures rises above 98.6 degrees it begins to put stress on the body. This is why Hyperthermia is sometimes referred to as heat stress.
If Hyperthermia is left untreated it can result in heat stroke and death. Once the body hits temperatures of 104 and above it begins to show signs of stroke. Recognizing the signs of heat stress and administering prompt first aid may save a life.
There are several symptoms that a person with heat stress will exhibit. Once hyperthermia sets in the body is not longer able to successfully cool itself. As a result the skin may be dry to the touch and is likely to feel warm. Victims of hyperthermia lose the ability to sweat which is the method the body primarily uses to keep itself cool.
As a patient’s condition worsens they can become confused, irritable, and nauseous. Heart rate often becomes rapid; headaches may develop along with muscle cramps and spasms. The elderly are the most vulnerable to hyperthermia and they may collapse before many of the other symptoms manifest themselves.
Once a person begins to exhibit signs of hyperthermia it is important to administer first aid immediately. Hyperthermia needs to be treated as a serious emergency. Dial 911 immediately. If the person is in a hot environment it is critical to get them to a cool shaded area. If an air-conditioned environment is available that works even better. If the victim is alert give them fluids. This will rehydrate them and help drive down their internal temperature.
The victim should be lying down to conserve energy and keep the body from producing more heat. In order to rapidly cool the body the victim’s clothes may need to removed so that they can be sponged down with cool water. If a fan is available fanning the victim will help cool them down. The main purpose of the first aid is to cool the victim as much as possible as quickly as possible.
The summer heat provides a great opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and participate in ones favorite activity. That does not mean that safety precautions should be ignored. The best prevention of heat related stress and stroke is prevention. Avoiding unnecessary work in the heat of the day is advisable. Working out in the evening or early morning to avoid the heat of day is important. The best weapon however is drinking plenty of water while avoiding drinks high in caffeine and alcohol.
Following a few simple precautions will make the summer heat enjoyable rather than a potential disaster.