As the Mercury is rising up, we all are prone to heat strokes. A Heat Stroke is a medical emergency that can lead to fatal consequences, knowing first aid and prevention strategies can help prevent the severity and if untreated, heatstroke can lead to organ failure, a coma or death. Dr Harkirat Singh Wilkhoo, Health and Lifestyle Coach and Specialist Homeopath at RAK Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah tells us all we need to know.
Heat Stroke is the most serious type of heat-related illness caused by prolonged exposure to strong heat usually combined with dehydration leading to the failure of the body’s heat control mechanism. During a heat stroke, the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. It is considered a medical emergency and can impact any person of any age or gender. However, factors such as renal disease, hypertension, exertion in hot weather, sudden exposure to hot weather, lack of air conditioning, certain medications and health conditions can increase the risk of heatstroke manifolds.
Dr. Harkirat Singh Wilkhoo says, “When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise above 40 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Depending upon the degree of illness, heatstroke presents its signs and symptoms in phases from mild Heat Cramps to Heat Syncope (fainting) and Heat Exhaustion. Heat stroke can also kill or cause damage to the brain whereas complications involving the central nervous system can occur too.
Amongst other risk factors, obesity is the most common factor contributing to heat strokes as overweight or obese people are 3.5 times more susceptible to fatalities from heat exhaustion. Carrying excess weight can affect the body’s ability to regulate its temperature leading to heat retention in the body, as there is more insulation in the body which retains the heat inside. Secondly, fluid intake below 3 litres every day may also cause dehydration during heat exposure whereas the dietary pattern plays an important role as well in dehydration leading to increased risk of heatstroke”
Many times there is confusion between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke, which literally mean the same. Heat exhaustion may lead to heat stroke by virtue of its severity. Common distinguishing signs and symptoms are; heat exhaustion presents as dizziness, headache, sweaty skin, rapid heartbeat, nausea-vomiting, weakness and cramps, whereas heat stroke mainly presents with red, hot and dry skin, and high temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, mental confusion, fainting, etc. Untreated, heatstroke can lead to organ failure, a coma or death. People working outdoors, poorly ventilated sheds, enclosed sheds, furnaces, boilers, blowers, etc are more prone to heatstroke.
Potential complications of heatstroke can lead people to coma whereas high body temperature can cause Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome( ARDS), brain swelling, kidney failure, metabolic dysfunction, nerve damage or reduced blood flow to the heart and other circulatory problems.
Advising on first aid measures, Dr Wilkhoo states, “The heatstroke is an emergency situation and has different protocols of management. First-aid measures include cooling down the body temperature by a cold bath, shifting the patient to air conditioning, blowing air on wet body, providing proper ventilation, shifting the patient to a shady and airy area, and applying ice packs on the armpits, groin, neck and back etc. Once the patient is stable, give a small quantity of cold water to sip on at regular intervals to avoid stomach cramps and vomiting.”
Some strategies for preventing heat stroke include:
- Monitoring the colour of your urine. Darker urine is a sign of dehydration. To prevent dehydration, drink at least eight glasses of water, fruit juice, or vegetable juice per day.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol as both substances can make you lose more fluids and worsen heat-related illness.
- Salty Snacks, fast & fried foods, soy sauce and carbonated drinks are to be avoided.
- Stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment.
- When going outdoors wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
- Consume fruits rich in water content such as Watermelon, Grapes, Oranges, Cantaloupe and salads with Cucumber and Tomatoes,