Heat Stroke – A Nurse’s Perspective

With temperatures soaring high in summer we need to be aware of a serious medical condition called sun stroke or heat stroke. This condition is a medical emergency and can lead to serious complications or may even be fatal if not treated properly and in good time. What is heat stroke? Heat stroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its temperature and the body temperature rises and remains high. Sun stroke is the most common type of heat stroke and occurs due to dehydration and overheating of the body. What are the conditions causing heat stroke? The common conditions in which heat stroke occurs are: a)     People attending large events b)    working in a hot and poorly ventilated area , c)     engaging in vigorous physical activities in hot weather How to identify heat stroke? The common symptoms and signs of heat stroke are:

  • Hot, dry  and red skin
  • Dry and swollen tongue
  • Severe restlessness
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating or sweating may have stopped in severe cases
  • Nausea, confusion or anxiety.
  • Body temperature more than 40 degrees Centigrade
  • Convulsions (or fits)
  • Shallow breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
What are the risk factors for heat stroke? The common risk factors for heat stroke are: a)     Age: Infants and children up to 4 years and elderly people. b)    Health conditions: Those who have pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease, kidney problems, etc. c)     People with diabetes d)    People who work outdoors or in open areas e)     People who physically exert themselves under the sun How can we prevent heat stroke? Following are useful measures that can be taken to prevent heat stroke:
  • When the heat index is high stay in an air conditioned environment or a highly ventilated room.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, keep rehydrating frequently
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored loose clothing and a wide brimmed hat.
  • Use sun screen or a sun protection cream.
  • Limit outdoor activities during the hottest time of the day.
  • Never leave children alone inside the car during the hot weather.
Management of Heat stroke If we become aware that a person has been exposed to heat and shows signs and symptoms of heat stroke, it is important to call for medical help. Meanwhile the following measures are useful:
  • Move the person to a cool and shady area
  • Remove the person’sunnecessary clothing to increase the air circulationto the body.
  • Cool the person’s body by sponging
  • Rehydrate with water or fluids

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