If hot weather sometimes makes you feel mopey and lethargic, don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with you. Your body’s simply warning you to take it easy and prevent heat stroke. But make sure you heed that warning whenever soaring temperatures begin to get you down. If you don’t, you could be courting real trouble – in the form of heat exhaustion or, worse, heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when hot weather depletes your reserves of fluid and salt, causing you to feel sick and faint. Your skin may become pale and clammy and your pulse rate slow. To head off further problems, drop everything and rest in a cool place. Take salt, about half a teaspoonful in nine ounces of water. Salt tablets are another option, but your body won’t absorb them as quickly as the salt solution.
Call your physician and follow his advice. Heat stroke is a more advanced and far more dangerous conditon. It occurs when extreme heat causes a malfunction in your body’s thermostat. Sweating ceases. Your temperaure rises dramatically and your heart rate markedly increases. You may feel dizzy, weak and faint. Unless someone acts quickly to bring down your temperature before it reaches 106 degrees, you may suffer shock, convulsions, brain damage and coma. You could die.
Heatstroke treatment requires hospitalization and a physician’s care. First aid to deal with the immediate crisis involves a cool-down in an ice-water or cold-water bath until the temperature, taken rectally, falls to 102. If the temperature continues to fall, it becomes necessary to keep the patient warm. But if, as a result of the warming, the temperature again begins to rise, the cooldown must resume.
Persons administering heat stroke treatment should massage the victim at all times to prevent the construction of blood vessels. At the hospital the patient will receive intravenous treatments to replace lost fluids. Full recovery will require several days of bed rest.
To prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke, do the following:
1. Drink plenty of fluids.
2. Replenish lost salt.
3. Wear light, loose-fitting, unstarched clothing.
4. Cover your head when outdoors.
5. During heavy work or exercise, splash water on your body and take periodic breaks in the coolest place you can find.
6. If at any time you feel the least bit woozy, quit your activity and call it a day. Although that may mean losing a few hours of work or recreation, it’s better than losing your life due to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.