First aid for heat stroke

first aid for heat strokeHere comes the sun!

Once again, the Seattle area is experiencing record-breaking temperatures and it’s not even summer yet! This seems like a good time to re-post some sun safety tips. People can die from excessive heat, so here are some tips to protect yourself and those most vulnerable to the heat—the very young and very old. Sláinte, Frugal Nurse

This post was first published June 26, 2015

Living in the Pacific Northwest,  we rarely have to worry about heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses.

In fact, it so often rains through the Fourth of July, we joke that summer doesn’t officially start until July 5th.

But today and through July 4th a heat advisory will be in effect where I live. We are being warned that not only will temperatures be unusually hot and uncomfortable, they might be deadly for some.

Most at risk are the very young and elderly.

  • Do not leave children of any age (or pets) unattended in parked cars!
  • Take extra care of children involved in outdoor activities, such as summer sports camps.
  • Check on any frail seniors in your family or neighborhood, especially if they don’t have air conditioning or during power outages.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. The body becomes so overheated, it can no longer adequately cool itself down. Symptoms include:

  • Hot, dry skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in consciousness or unconsciousness
  • Call 911 immediately if you observe these symptoms!

Treating heat stroke

While waiting for medical aid:

  • Get the victim out of the sun. Move indoors or to a shady area. Create shade with a blanket or towel if necessary.
  • Loosen tight clothing.
  • If the victim is agitated, try to keep them calm and sitting or lying down.
  • Apply cool compresses—Use wet towels or sheets to cover more surface area.
  • Use a fan to increase evaporation.
  • If you have ice or ice packs handy, put them in the victim’s armpits, groin, wrists and ankles to help cool the large blood vessels.
  • Do not offer water if the victim is vomiting or losing consciousness.
  • If the victim is unconscious and vomiting, roll him or her to her side so they don’t choke on their vomit.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is that awful feeling you get when you are overheated. If you don’t do something to cool your body down, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke.

Know these symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Cool, clammy skin—Your body sweats more to cool down.
  • Flushed skin—Your body sends more blood flow to the surface as it tries to cool down.
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Treating heat exhaustion

Again, it’s most important to cool your body down. Follow the same tips as for heat stroke, but also:

  • Sip cool water. Don’t gulp! Drinking cold water too quickly can cause stomach cramps.
  • Take it easy for the rest of the day.

Prevention is key!

  • Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water and other fluids. Aim for 1-2 glasses of water, juice or sports drink every hour. Sorry but alcohol doesn’t count! Neither does a grande frappuccino. Caffeinated and super sugary drinks actually make you more dehydrated.
  • Wear light-weight and loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Schedule strenuous activities, such as outdoor work or sports, for the early morning or late afternoon.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade.
  • Find somewhere air conditioned, such as a mall, a community center or a senior center.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion

Enjoy the summer sun, but be aware of the dangers of excessive heat and plan your activities to avoid the highest temperatures in the middle of the day. And check on your seniors, especially during power outages.

Have a safe summer!

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