Between 1979 and 2014, there was about one death per million people caused by heat. While this number may seem insignificant, it adds up when multiplied out to reflect the entire world’s population, and it demonstrates the severity of the extreme summer temperatures. Without taking proper precautions, people are very susceptible to illness caused by the intense heat of summer.
Heatstroke is one of the more common summer illnesses. It has many noticeable symptoms and can be very harmful or even fatal if left unchecked. Luckily, there are several ways to prevent heatstroke that still allow you to enjoy the outdoor time of summer! Read below to learn more about heatstroke.
What Is Heatstroke?
As its name implies, heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating. The normal body temperature is 98.6 °F, and heatstroke occurs if your body temperature rises to 104 °F or greater. Heatstroke is often caused after an extended period of time in hot temperatures, and there are some personal factors that make you more at risk than others.
Old age (65 and over), certain medications, and excessive physical activity in hot temperatures increase your likelihood of heatstroke.
There are many clear and obvious symptoms of heatstroke, and increased body temperature is one of the first things you will notice. You may also notice an altered mental state, as you could become confused, irritable, delirious, or agitated, while slurring your words.
A throbbing headache and nausea are other signs of heatstroke. Heatstroke victims may also become red-skinned and sweat profusely. You may also vomit and begin breathing rapidly.
What Should I Do if I Notice Symptoms?
Seeking immediate medical attention is the most important thing you should do after noticing any symptoms. Call 911 or your local emergency hotline, and then take the necessary precautions while you wait for medical help. After calling for help, the victim should be taken to a cooler location.
Ideally, this is indoors, but a shaded area will suffice if that is not possible. You should also remove any excess clothing from the victim, as the extra layers will only worsen the condition.
There are also a variety of ways to cool off heatstroke victims with water. For example, a bath of ice-cold water is proven to immediately reduce your body temperature. You can also put ice packs and wet towels on your body to cool off.
Applying ice packs to the groin, armpits, back, neck, and head will help reduce your temperature. If you notice shivering, you can also take certain muscle relaxers to stop shivering. This will, in turn, reduce your body temperature.
How Can I Avoid Heatstroke?
There are many simple and effective ways to avoid heatstroke this summer. Make sure you are properly hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, as this will help regulate your body temperature. Caffeine and alcohol naturally dehydrate the body, so they should be enjoyed in moderation. The most important liquids to drink are water, sports drinks, or other healthy hydrating alternatives containing electrolytes.
You should also dress properly, as excessive clothing will drive your body’s temperature up. Certain fabrics such as cotton, nylon, and polyester are lighter and “breathe” better than others, which keeps you cool and comfortable in the hot weather.
Another easy way to avoid heatstroke is by monitoring your outdoor time. The sun is at its highest and the temperatures their hottest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so make sure you take necessary precautions if you will be outside during these hours.
You will decrease your risk for heatstroke if you hydrate, apply sunscreen, dress properly, and take any other necessary safety measures. You could also partake in your outdoor activities early or later in the day. While this may require some schedule sacrifices on your part, it minimizes your chance of heatstroke and allows you to beat any crowds outside!
Maintain Your HVAC System
Another very simple way to prevent heatstroke is to keep your home at a cool and comfortable temperature. Before the summer months, you should check on the status of your HVAC system. Most systems require annual or biannual maintenance, and you’ll need to check on their condition before the temperatures rise.
If it is not operating at peak efficiency, you are more at risk for heatstroke because there will not be much of a difference between the indoor and outdoor temperature.
Additionally, this saves you money because an inefficient HVAC system causes your energy bill to skyrocket like the July temperatures. There are several HVAC systems that will adequately cool your home and reduce your chance of heatstroke.
For example, ductless air conditioners such as mini-splits are increasing in popularity due to their many benefits. They are incredibly efficient, as they help reduce your home’s energy usage and consumption, which also leads to a cheaper energy bill.
Ductless air conditioners are also very affordable and versatile and they do not require the extensive ductwork of other systems, which means that they can go in almost any room in your house. Many also double as heaters, meaning they can be used in the winter. Finally, ductless air conditioners also act as air purifiers by removing any dust, dirt, or allergens. They will keep your family safe AND cool!
Use Curtains and Ceiling Fans
However, there are also non-HVAC methods of lowering your home’s temperature. For example, you can install curtains and blinds in your home to keep the sunlight out. They are cheap, easy to install, and will naturally lower your home’s temperature. You can also install ceiling fans to help cool your home and create a comfortable environment for occupants.
Everybody enjoys spending time outside during the summer, but you must be wary of your health and pay close attention to your body. If you notice any symptoms of heatstroke, seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency phone number. If left untreated, heatstroke can lead to permanent damage in your kidneys, muscles, heart, or brain or death in worst-case scenarios.