What you need to know about heatstroke

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PHOENIX -- Heatstroke is the most serious form of heat injury and is a medical emergency. If you suspect that someone has heatstroke – also know as sunstroke – you should call 911 immediately and render first aid.

Heatstroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs.

Heatstroke often occurs as a progression from milder heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat syncope and heat exhaustion.

Heatstroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures – usually in combination with dehydration, failure of the body’s temperature control system. Heatstroke is a core body temperature of 105 degrees.

Common symptoms include nausea, seizures, confusion and disorientation.

The hallmark symptoms of heatstroke are a core body temperature above 105 degrees, but fainting may be a sign.

Other symptoms:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Unconsciousness

If you suspect that someone has a heatstroke, immediately call 911.

While waiting move the person to an air-conditioned environment or a cool shady area and remove any unnecessary clothing.

Initiate first aid to cool the patient's temperature to 101 to 102 degrees.

Try these cooling strategies:

• Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.

• Apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck and back. These areas are rich with blood vessels, cooling them may reduce body temperature.

• Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water.

After you’ve recovered from heatstroke, you’ll probably be more sensitive to high temperatures. It’s best to avoid hot weather.

Do not give aspirin or acetaminophen to reduce a high temperature that can occur with heatstroke. These medicines may cause problems because of the body’s response to heatstroke.

If the person is awake and alert enough to swallow, give the person fluids [32 fl oz (1 L) to 64 fl oz (2 L) over one to two hours] for hydration. Most people with heatstroke cannot safely be given fluids to drink.

Drink rehydration drinks, juices or water to replace fluids.

Drinks such as sports drinks that contain electrolytes work best. Drink 2 quarts (2 L) of cool fluids over two to four hours. You are drinking enough fluids if your urine is normal in color and amount you are urinating every two to four hours.

Total rehydration with oral fluids usually takes about 36 hours, but most people will begin to feel better within a few hours.

Rest for 24 hours and continue fluid replacement with a rehydration drink. Rest from any strenuous physical activity for one to three days.

Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St., Scottsdale. For more information call 480-656-0016 or visit www.drartmollen.com.