Heat Stroke: Warning Signs & First Aid

Older adults, specifically those aged 65 and older, are more prone to heat illnesses.  Last year, 24.44% of the Heat Fatalities were those between ages 60-69 years old, followed by 70-79 years old at 17.78%.  32% were males and 13% were females.

As you age, your body becomes less efficient at regulating temperature and adjusting to sudden temperature changes.  You don’t sweat as much as when you are younger and that is the body’s most important heat-regulating mechanism.  Also, if you already have an existing medical condition, it can alter your body’s heat responses.  Your medications can be a cause of this too.  You see, some meds impair your body’s ability to regulate temperature.

Bottom line here is that Heat Illnesses are serious, life-threatening and a condition that should never be ignored.  Heat Stroke is the most serious form of heat illness.  It’s a condition that occurs when your body is overheating as a result of prolonged exposure in high temperatures.  Your body temperature rises very fast (up to 104 F (40 C) or higher in 10-15 minutes), that your body loses its ability to cool down.  Emergency response is needed or it can result to death or permanent disability.

So what are the Signs & Symptoms that you should watch out for?

  • Extremely high body temperature. Obviously, this is the major sign of Heat Stroke.  Your temperature will reach 104 F/ 40 C or higher.
  • Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch with the absence of sweating.
  • Your heart and pulse rate significantly increase and become stronger.
  • Throbbing Headache, Nausea & Vomiting. You will feel sick like you are about to vomit.
  • Shallow and rapid breathing. Your respiratory rate increases and you experience difficulty in breathing.
  • Your mental state is altered, causing confusion, agitation, slurred speech, delirium, seizures and even coma.

If you suspect that you or someone else is experiencing Heat Stroke, call 911 immediately.  But while waiting for the paramedics, you should administer First Aid to lower your body temperature and prevent your condition from progressing.  Follow these helpful strategies.

  • Go to a shady or air-conditioned room ASAP.
  • If you are at home, immerse your body into a tub with cold or ice water or take a cool shower if there is none.
  • Other doctors prefer the Evaporation technique instead of immersing in cold water. This method requires spritzing cold water into your skin while being fanned by warm air, causing the water to evaporate.
  • Another option is to cover your body with damp sheets and apply ice packs to groin, neck, back and armpits to lower your temperature.
  • Rehydrate!

Now that the weather is definitely heating up, you should really put all these info in mind and heart to know the warning signs to watch out for and what to do in case this type of emergency happens.  Although  having the knowledge in First Aid is a good thing, it is still more important to know the different ways to protect yourself from this life-threatening condition, which I will talk about on the next article.

About Toni Marie

Toni is a contributing author. In addition to writing about the Baby Boomer generation, she also likes to write about relationships and health.
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