Yes, it’s summer in Georgia. I am not sure any of us are surprised at how hot it’s going to be this weekend, or how hot it has been this week, but we are. Every year I never fail to be amazed at the oppressive heat in which we live. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are topics we cover in our CPR Certification classes every day.
There is a difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a warning sign and can be dealt with without EMS, heat stroke will kill you. Every summer we hear news stories of athletes of all ages dying from heat stroke. I will explain what each is, and give you the best ways to avoid and treat them.
Heat exhaustion is where your body is getting overheated and is having a hard time keeping up, with cooling down. Your body is overwhelmed with the heat and wants your attention focused on getting it cooled off.
The symptoms of head exhaustion are as follows:
- cool, clammy skin, despite it being 1000 degrees outside
- cramps in the hands or feet
- feel like junk
If you have heat exhaustion, no need to over react; but react you should. Immediately focus your energy on cooling off. Despite myths about how to cool off, here’s the best way to cool off if you are overheated.
- Drink cool water – gatorade (don’t like poweraid – high fructose corn syrup -blech)
- Remove unnecessary clothing or wet clothing
- Relocate to a nicely air conditioned location
- Put a handful of ice cubes, in a bag, under each armpit. This cools blood in the brachial artery, cooling your core temperature! It works!
If you take these steps when you notice you have head exhaustion, you should be ok in about 15-20 minutes. BUT, it doesn’t mean you can get back out into the heat. You are done for the day. Take care not to get over heated again as heat stroke is the next step. And it is deadly.
Heat stroke is when your body is so overheated it’s dangerous. Your bodies mechanism of cooling off is broken and without basic and professional care, heat stroke can kill.
The following symptoms are heat stroke and can’t be fooled with:
- Possible vomiting
- Feverish to the touch and bone dry – not sweating
If these symptoms are present, call 911 immediately and start an emergency cool down as described above. Better yet, if you can, immerse the patient in cool water up to their neck. A swimming pool or tub is perfect for treating heat stroke.
So as a summary – if you suspect someone has heat stroke and they are cool, clammy and still sweating, you can cool them down and give them a few minutes to get better. If the person isn’t sweating and is really hot to the touch, call 911 immediately.
Of course – if you forget what you learned in this article, simply play it safe and call 911. Better save than sorry!