As residents of the Sunshine State, we are subject to some of the highest temperatures and humidity levels in the entire country. With average high temperatures exceeding 90°F during the summer months, there is little reprieve from the intense Florida sun. This makes us susceptible to heat stroke – a dangerous combination of heat cramps and heat exhaustion that sets in as your body temperature rises to 104°F or higher. The risk of heat stroke runs especially high in children and seniors over the age of 65. Here, we will explain the risk factors and symptoms of heat stroke, as well as things you can do to help avoid it.
Dangers of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke can often lead to other complications for older adults. It can have lasting and damaging effects on the organs, including swelling of the organs, kidney or liver disease, or irregular heart rhythms. Heat stroke can also lead to permanent brain damage, impairing your ability to control muscular movements or even cause the muscles in your mouth, face, and respiratory system to become weak. Because heat stroke can cause fainting and seizures, it also put you at a higher risk of falling and breaking bones.
Risk Factors That Can Contribute to Heat Stroke
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of heat stroke. If any of the circumstances below describe you, talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask what you can do specifically to minimize the risk.
- Heart, lung, or kidney disease
- Lack of physiological reserve as a result of old age
- High blood pressure
- Sudden exposure to high temperature and/or humidity
- Certain medications, like beta blockers, diuretics, antihistamines, or antipsychotics
Know the Symptoms of Heat Stroke
It is important that you know the symptoms of heat stroke so that you can seek timely treatment for yourself or a companion that has developed the condition. Some of the telltale signs of heat stroke include:
- A core body temperature of 104°F or higher
- Red or flushed skin
- Abnormal sweating (heavy sweating or a lack of sweat)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness or disorientation
- Throbbing headaches
- Shallow breathing
- Rapid pulse
If you think you or someone else is experiencing heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention by calling 911.
Tips for Preventing Heat Stroke
Thankfully, heat stroke is largely a preventable condition. By following a few simple rules, you can significantly increase your chances of avoiding heat stroke.
- Stay indoors and away from the sun.
Keep an eye on your local weather forecast, and try to stay in an air-conditioned environment during the warmest times of the day.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink more fluids, especially when you are outdoors. Avoid drinks with excessive sugars or alcohol, as they can dehydrate you.
- Avoid physical activity when it’s hot out.
Plan your outdoor physical activity for the cooler parts of the day, like the mornings and early evenings.
- Wear light colored clothing that is lightweight and loose fitting.
Avoid dark colors that absorb heat and materials that retain warm air around your body, like fur or velvet.
- Rest in a shaded area and wear a hat.
Take breaks from direct sun exposure so your body can cool down. Never rest in a warm enclosed area without air conditioning, like a parked car.
Keep Cool and Stay Healthy
Avoiding heat stroke doesn’t have to be a chore. Now that you know the risk factors, symptoms, and avoidance tips, enjoying the summer months can be worry free. As always if you have any questions or concerns about heat stroke, talk to your MetroHealth care provider. Now go out and enjoy your summer – and remember to stay cool.