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Heatstroke Is a Serious, Sometimes Fatal, Medical Issue
By Wilber Estrada, MD
Houston is home to sweltering humidity and dangerously hot temperatures during the summer. Conditions of extreme heat can be hazardous and even life-threatening, which is why it’s important to be aware of the most serious heat-related illness: heatstroke.
Heatstroke, an abnormally elevated body temperature, is a common form of heat-related illness that most often occurs when people are engaging in outdoor activities on hot, humid days.
Also called sun stroke, heatstroke occurs when your body becomes overheated in a relatively short period of time and is unable to cool itself back down to normal temperatures.
Who’s at Risk for Heatstroke?
Heatstroke is more common in older adults but can also occur in people who are young and healthy – even infants.
A Medical Emergency
Heatstroke is a true medical emergency requiring immediate attention. Without immediate medical attention, it can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The longer treatment is delayed, the bigger the risk of serious complications or death.
Heatstroke Warning Signs
Signs of heatstroke may vary but include:
- Mental confusion
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid breathing
How To Avoid Heatstroke
To prevent heatstroke, avoid the outdoors during the hottest times of the day, usually between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Schedule exercise or physical labor for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening.
If you must be outdoors, wear light, loose-fitting clothing, stay hydrated with water, and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, which dehydrate you. Take frequent breaks in the shade to cool down.
What To Do About Heatstroke
If you see someone is showing signs of heatstroke, take immediate action:
- Call 911 for emergency assistance
- Move them to a shaded area or air-conditioned environment
- Cool the person by moistening their skin with water (but not ice)
- Have them drink cool water if they’re able