Learn how to spot the signs of a heat stroke

8/11/2014

With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees today in Portland and Southwest Washington, anyone planning to spend time outdoors should watch out for signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

“People should take extra care today to make sure they don’t push beyond their limits,” says PeaceHealth Southwest emergency physician Erik Denninghoff, MD. “Try to avoid spending extended time in the direct sun today. To stay cool, stay in the shade, visit an air conditioned store or movie theater, and drink plenty of water or Gatorade.”

Denninghoff says heat stroke can come on quickly. “People who are exposed to today’s heat should watch carefully for signs of dehydration – including increasing thirst and decreasing or darkened urine. Warning signs of a more dangerous heat-related condition are a rising internal temperature (fever) and signs of confusion. If you or someone you are working with experiences these conditions, find shade and take immediate steps to reduce body temperature.”

PeaceHealth’s emergency team advises to watch for the following signs and symptoms:

Heat Exhaustion
•    Dizziness, fatigue, faintness, headache
•    Pale, clammy skin
•    Rapid, weak pulse
•    Fast, shallow breathing
•    Muscle cramps
•    Intense thirst

Heat Stroke
•    Skin is hot, dry, flushed                                  
•    No sweating
•    High body temperature
•    Rapid heartbeat
•    Loss of consciousness

The risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke increases for children and seniors, drinking alcohol or other drug use, working in a hot environment, wearing heavy and/or restrictive clothing, and severe fever or chronic illness.

How to Treat
If someone with symptoms is faint and sweating:
•    Give them liquids (water, sports drinks, caffeine-free soft drinks or fruit juice).
•    Find shade, avoid direct sunlight.
•    Don’t give salt pills.
•    Arrange for transportation to the hospital, except in mild cases.
Call your doctor for advice.

If someone with symptoms is very hot and not sweating:
•    Cool the person rapidly. Use a cold-water bath or wrap in wet sheets.
•    Find shade, avoid direct sunlight.
•    Arrange for transportation to the nearest hospital—this is an emergency!

Avoid these life-threatening reactions by drinking plenty of water, wearing light, loose-fitting clothing, and acclimating yourself to hot weather conditions.

About PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center
The region’s health care leader and steward for 156 years, PeaceHealth Southwest is a community-owned, not-for-profit, 450-bed, medical institution located in Vancouver, Washington. Repeatedly recognized nationally as a 100 Top Hospital, PeaceHealth Southwest provides a full range of outpatient and inpatient diagnostic, medical, and surgical services to Clark County residents. PeaceHealth Southwest is also one of Clark County’s largest employers with 3,400 employees and 600 active medical staff members that help support dozens of medical specialty services and programs, including cancer, heart, emergency, trauma, neuro-musculoskeletal, family birth, and primary care.