June 21, 2019
HEAT STROKE: WHAT IS IT; HOW TO AVOID IT
ThedaCare Provider Explains Possible Prevention and Warning Signs
APPLETON, Wis – This year’s cool, unpredictable spring has many people looking forward to the hot days of summer. Once hot weather arrives, anyone spending a long time in hot conditions should be aware of heat stroke, especially those who work, play sports, or exercise outdoors or in warm environments.
“It takes time to adjust to warmer temperatures,” said Paul Stevens, MD, family medicine provider at ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton. “With this spring’s colder weather, those who work or play outdoors will need to give themselves time to adjust to hot temperatures. Drinking water continuously will be especially important.”
Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure or exertion in high temperatures. Dr. Stevens and the Centers for Disease Control share this list of symptoms:
- High body temperature (104°F or higher)
- Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Losing consciousness (passing out)
“Anyone exhibiting such symptoms needs to receive immediate medical treatment; call 911 and get them to a hospital,” Dr. Stevens emphasized. “Heat stroke is a serious condition. It can cause damage to organs, such as your heart, brain, kidneys, and also muscles. It can also be deadly; it is not a condition to be taken lightly.”
If you’re with someone who may have heat exhaustion or be approaching heat stroke, Dr. Stevens offer these suggestions for care:
- Get the person into the shade or indoors.
- Remove excess clothing.
- Cool the person with whatever means available — a cool washcloth on the forehead, a cool shower, sponge with cool water.
- Encourage them to sip water or a sports drink slowly.
- Elevate their legs to get their blood flowing throughout the body.
Dr. Stevens said those most at risk for heat stroke include: babies, young children, the elderly, people who are significantly overweight, are heat sensitive or have other chronic diseases.
“Heat-related illnesses include a range of symptoms, starting with exercise-associated muscle cramps to heat exhaustion to heat stroke, which is the most dangerous,” said Dr. Stevens. “A lot of the warning signs are pretty non-specific, such as muscle cramps, excessive sweating, dizziness, headaches or being nauseous. Those are all signs that people are becoming dehydrated. If people are showing some of these symptoms and they’re in a very warm environment, take their temperature. If it’s over 104, that could be a heat stroke; call 911 and get them immediate care.”
Dr. Stevens also advised people to pay attention to the heat index, which is a combination of the temperature and humidity level.
“When the heat index reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s when we recommend people use extreme caution,” he said. “Humid conditions make it difficult for our bodies to sweat and release heat, which is the main way our bodies regulate our body temperature.”
Dr. Stevens added that the best way to help avoid heat-related illness is to drink water or a sports drink slowly and steadily, not caffeinated drinks or alcohol.
“If you begin to notice any of the symptoms along the continuum of heat-related illnesses, stop and take preventive action,” he said. “Never underestimate the seriousness of heat stroke; it should be treated as a health emergency.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.
Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.