Beware: Heat Stroke Can Be Fatal

June 4, 2018

Soaring temperatures are normal in summer; especially in tropical climes. Don’t imagine that the temperature out in the street has no relevance for you. Unless you are the kind of person who can afford to stay indoors, in airconditioned comfort, most of the day while the sun is visible; the heat beating down on all around you could get to you before you realize it. If you are a student who must attend school or college even in high summer; are an athlete who needs to practice in daytime; or are in some profession like the defence forces or are a firefighter — you have little scope of escaping the sun.

Avoid Getting Sun Burned
When your body gets overheated for whatever reason, you run the risk of getting heat exhaustion, or in an extreme situation, heat stroke. The major risk of getting sun burned is that the patches of skin where there are sun burns prevent the body from cooling naturally. You should use an umbrella, rather than just a wide-brimmed hat, in tropical summer. This will protect you from direct exposure to the sun, which can be more perilous than is commonly realized. Apart from heating your body dangerously, direct sun rays on your head can adversely affect your brain leaving you addlepated or at least disoriented.

DO THIS TO BE SAFE: Ideally, use some kind of sunscreen on the skin to prevent future potentially life-threatening melanoma (skin cancer). Protect your eyes by wearing sunshades which block UV rays.

Not Just High Summer; Monsoons Can Be Equally Lethal
You could be exposed to extreme heat which adversely impacts your body’s capability to counter outside heat in monsoons too; not just in summer. When you sweat profusely, it is the body’s way of cooling down. When your body can’t cool down adequately naturally or with assistance; you begin to run a fever. Humid heat which is normal during the monsoons even in dry climes is dangerous as it leads to excessive perspiration leading to dehydration without lowering body temperature. A person exposed to humid heat finds herself/himself literally steaming when bathing in cool water.

Watch Out for These Symptoms

So, how do you know whether you, a colleague, or a loved one is suffering from heat exhaustion or a heat stroke? Usually, a person displays symptoms of heat exhaustion before getting a heat stroke. Red skin; heat rashes; nausea or vomiting; severe headache; rapid, shallow breathing; cramps in legs and the stomach; extreme fatigue; fainting; or dizziness; palpitations are some indicators which should alert you. If there is raised body temperature, then rush the patient to a hospital or similar medical facility as it is clearly a sign of heat stroke.

The Dangers of Dehydration
Sports persons display signs of dehydration during matches played in summer as in the excruciating cramps, and even hamstring pulls they suffer. Yet, even a child walking home from school mid-afternoon without sheltering under an umbrella; a housewife who has spent long hours in the kitchen rustling a culinary delight for her family; an office goer returning home in an overcrowded bus or train — each is susceptible to getting overheated and losing body fluids through excessive sweating. The dehydrated person runs a higher risk of getting heat stroke as the body can’t cool down adequately.

Do This Before Medical Aid Reaches You
Place the sufferer in a bath of cool water. If that isn’t practicable, use a damp cloth or towel to force down body temperature. Wrapping a towel around several cubes of ice, and placing the cold towel on the chest, under the armpits, and in the groin, help lower body temperature. Remember, you mustn’t let the patient suffering from heat exhaustion develop a fever. If the room isn’t airconditioned, or there isn’t a desert cooler; try placing a wet sheet in front of the fan. Make sure the patient is given plenty of plain, cool water to drink. Fresh fruit juice, mango panna, green coconut water, buttermilk, water charged with the juice of fresh mint and coriander leaves, and juice of fresh carrots laced with amla (Indian gooseberry) are some good options as they will help the body cool down while rehydrating.

Recovery Time Is Variable
Once you have your patient under medical care, recovery time can be variable. While most patients turn the corner in a day or two after being put under treatment; proper recovery can vary from a couple of months to even a year. You shouldn’t take the matter lightly as long-term damage to organs like the liver can occur after a heat stroke.

PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE

More than other ailments, heat stroke is best prevented as it can occasionally turn fatal. Take whatever precautions are practical, and always stay hydrated.