Recognizing and Responding to Heat Stroke

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While many of us know the dangers of getting sunburnt at the beach, many of us don’t know how to recognize and respond to heat stroke, especially when spending a relaxing day at the beach. Nothing ruins a beach day like someone getting extremely sick, so it is important to make sure that everyone is aware of heat stroke (and its less harmful variant heat exhaustion) look like.

To make sure that your beach day goes smoothly, check out some of the classic signs of heat stroke and how to respond.

Heat Exhaustion

It is possible that the individual you are concerned about is experiencing heat exhaustion and not heat stroke, which is a much less serious condition. However, it is still important to respond so that the heat exhaustion does not develop into something more serious. Some classic signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Slightly elevated temperature
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fast pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dark urine
  • Muscle cramps

Responding to heat exhaustion

Here is what you should do in the event that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Move into a shaded or air-conditioned area
  • Loosen and remove clothing
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • Drink water
  • Monitor your temperature to notice any dramatic increases
  • Immediately contact emergency medical services if you begin to develop any of the signs of heat stroke, discussed below

The Signs

The first step to responding to heat stroke and helping someone is distressed is to actually recognize the condition. Unfortunately, it is easy to misinterpret the signs of heat stroke with simply being hot or overheated. Not recognizing the signs can lead the condition to worsen, and can lead to dire consequences. Educate yourself about the signs below:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extremely fast pulse
  • Hot skin
  • Dry skin
  • Red skin
  • **Absence of sweating
  • Body temperature over 104 degrees Fahrenheit

If the conditions have worsened, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Complaints of hallucinations
  • Seizures 
  • Fainting
  • Coma
  • Death

Responding to Heat Stroke

First and foremost, the first thing you should do when you notice that someone is experiencing heat stroke is to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible. After calling 9-1-1, attempt to locate a lifeguard or any other authority on the beach as they have likely been trained on how to respond to heat stroke. However, after alerting the proper authorities, there are steps that you can take to ensure that the afflicted individual stays safe.

  • Move the individual in question into a shaded area or if available, an air-conditioned area
  • Elevate their feet to avoid the possibility of shock
  • Give them cool beverages — ONLY if they are not vomiting or extremely disoriented
  • Remove their clothing and wrap them in a cool towel or sheet
  • Place ice packs behind their heads, on their groin, and under their arms

Even after doing some of the things on the above list, make sure to stay with the individual until emergency help arrives on the scene. 

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