The season of summer is famous for causing Heat stroke. Heat stroke also means “sun stroke”. It is an illness which is caused by severe heat leading to increase in the body temperature more than 40.6oC or 105.1o F. This rise in body temperature is mostly caused by environmental heat exposure associated with lack of thermoregulation of the body. The word”stroke” in this word is a misnomer as the patient doesn’t suffer from any stroke of brain.
It is the most serious injury caused by heat. It is an emergency medical condition. If it is left untreated, it can lead to damage of the brain, kidneys, heart and muscles of the patient. Further delay in the treatment can result in deterioration of health leading to serious complications including death of the patient.
The extreme age groups i.e. elderly and children are mostly susceptible to a heat stroke. It is also common in adults having a high intake of alcohol as alcohol leads to severe dehydration of the body. Also, heat strokes commonly occur in city population as there is concretization which leads to “heat island phenomenon”. It is also common in population having pre existing medical conditions like heart or kidney problem, obesity etc.
Symptoms and Signs
Heat stroke occurs in excessive atmospheric temperatures. It occurs in the individuals who are dehydrated or exhausted by physical exertion. The temperature is found to be raised to 40.6o C. Fainting is the first sign with which the patient presents. The patient may have preceding symptoms of throbbing head ache, dizziness, and light headedness, lack of sweating despite the heat, dry, red and hot skin, heart palpitations, shallow breathing, and parched throat. Patient also has nervous system symptoms like nausea, disorientation, confusion, staggering walk and ultimately seizures which result in losing consciousness.
Heat stroke is a serious life threatening emergency which can be avoided with the help of simple precautions. Basically one has to avoid overheating and dehydration from occurring. Wearing loose fitting clothes, light in colour allow the sweat to evaporate and decrease the body temperature. Always avoid direct contact with the sunlight by using sunscreen, wearing protective sun glasses and using wide brimmed hats. And the most important is having enough fluid intakes.
The water and electrolytes are lost in higher degrees of temperature in the form of sweat. The stores of water and electrolytes should be replenished by having cool drinks often in the day. Colour of the urine is a better indicator than thirst for the assessment of bodily need of water and electrolytes. Check the colour of the urine, darker the colour, more is the dehydration and vice versa. Also avoiding outdoor activities in hot climate is recommendable.
The treatment mainly includes rapid decrease in the body temperature and reversing the dehydration also giving resuscitative support to the patient. The patient should be moved to a cooler area. All the clothing is removed to promote the heat loss. Active cooling methods like bathing in cold water, applying cold compresses and ice packs to the body parts will help in decreasing the body temperature.
Complete immersion in the cold water is a popular technique although it requires assistance of many people. Immersion should not be done for an unconscious patient but no alternative is present then care should be taken to keep the head above the water. Water can be given to drink but in many conditions it actually results in decrease in the sodium levels which is threatening to the body. If the patient is delirious and is not oriented to the surroundings, the patient should be taken to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.
Heat stroke is a serious condition especially in the current season. Keep yourself hydrated and avoid heat stroke!!