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Avoid Heatstroke in DC’s Summer Swelter

Heatstroke is the most dangerous form of heat injury. It happens when you’ve spent too long in extreme heat or have overextended yourself physically in the sun. Heatstroke is extremely serious and requires emergency treatment.

Causes of Heatstroke

In general, heatstroke is caused by one of the following:

  • Too much time in the heat – Prolonged exposure to high outdoor heat (two to three days or more) can cause your body temperature to elevate considerably. Once your internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, you are at risk of developing classic heatstroke. It is particularly common in older people and those with chronic illnesses.
  • Too much activity in the heat – Physical overexertion in high temperatures can cause what’s called exertional heatstroke. It is more likely in people who are not used to higher heat.

Heatstroke can be hastened by:

  • Dehydration
  • Wearing too much clothing
  • Consumption of alcohol

Heatstroke Symptoms

The most prominent sign of heatstroke is a body temperature of 104 degrees or higher.

Other heatstroke symptoms include:

  • Erratic behavior or uneven mental state
  • Flushed skin
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Racing heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating OR hot, dry skin

What to Do for Someone with Heatstroke

Heatstroke can damage vital organs—including the brain—by causing them to swell. This damage can lead to death, so immediate treatment is critical.

If you suspect someone near you has heatstroke, get help right away. Call 911 or get the person to an urgent care clinic or emergency room as soon as possible. Simply getting out of the heat or drinking water is not sufficient treatment for heatstroke. Heatstroke is a serious medical condition that requires specialized treatment.

Ways to Prevent Heatstroke

Heatstroke is completely avoidable and preventable! Follow these precautions to stay cool and healthy.

  • Drink LOTS of fluids – Water is the best option. Avoid sugary, caffeinated, or alcoholic drinks while spending time in hot weather.
  • Wear loose-fitting, protective clothing – Light colors, natural fabrics, and a wide-brimmed hat will help protect your body from the heat. Remember to always wear sunscreen when you’re outdoors in the heat.
  • Acclimate yourself to hot weather if you’re not used to it – If you’ve just moved to a hotter region, or are vacationing in a high-temperature area, limit your time in the heat until you get used to it. Extend your time spent outside little by little daily.
  • Don’t overdo it outdoors in the heat – Take it easy or stay indoors during the hottest times of the day.
  • Never leave any person or animal in a hot car – This is absolutely critical. The temperature inside a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes when it’s parked in the sun. Don’t take the risk. Leaving a child or pet inside your car in the sun is one of the most dangerous things you can do—even in the shade, even with the windows cracked, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  • Know if you are at risk and take necessary precautions – If you are elderly or have a chronic illness, limit your time in the heat. Taking certain medications can also put you at higher risk of heatstroke. These include antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta blockers, vasoconstrictors, and diuretics. Ask your prescribing doctor if you aren’t sure what kind of medication you are taking.

Urgent Care for Summer Injuries and Illnesses

If you do find yourself in need of immediate health care this summer, visit one of Fast Track’s two Silver Spring-area urgent care clinics.

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