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Management of Heatstroke

Dr. Dharmakanta Kumbhakar

Heatstroke, also known as sunstroke, is a life-threatening condition in which the body’s heat-regulating system fails due to exposure to high temperatures. It happens when the body is unable to rid itself of excess heat due to vigorous activity or a very hot environment. High temperatures can cause the body’s major organs to fail.
Heatstroke is the most severe of the heat-related problems, often resulting from exercise or heavy work in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake. Children, athletes, diabetics, alcoholics and those not used to extreme heat and sun are more susceptible to heatstroke though anyone can get it.

Signs and symptoms of heatstroke:

The main sign of heatstroke is a markedly elevated body temperature (greater than 104 degree F) with changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion and coma. Fainting may be the first sign in older adults. Skin may be hot and dry – although if heatstroke is caused by exertion, the skin may be moist. Other sign and symptoms of heatstroke may include rapid heartbeat / pulse, rapid and shallow breathing, lowered blood pressure, stoppage of sweating, irritability, confusion or unconsciousness, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, headache, nausea and vomiting. If the sunstroke progresses, serious symptoms like mental confusion, hyperventilation, body cramp, painful spasms in arms and legs, seizure and coma may occur.

Management of heatstroke:

When a person suffers from heat exhaustion, the person should get out of the sun into a shady or air-conditioned location. Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly. Loosen or remove the person’s clothing. Make the person to drink cool water or other non-alcoholic beverage without caffeine. Cool the person by spraying or sponging him or her with cool water and fanning. Monitor the person carefully. Heat exhaustion can quickly become heatstroke. If there is fever greater than 102oF, fainting, confusion or seizures occur, immediately take emergency medical help.

Prevention of heatstroke:

To avoid heatstroke, we should drink lots of liquids and maintain the body at a normal temperature when doing outdoor activities. We should stay clear of alcohol and caffeine because they can cause dehydration. We should wear light coloured and loose-fitted cotton clothing and take breaks often to get a drink and keep the body water level.

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