Summer Safety: Heatstroke
(24 Nov 2015)

Heatstroke Prevention Expresso

Summer Safety: Heatstroke


The 2015 summer season is on track to be the hottest year in decades, and with solar radiation levels increasing across the African continent and water restrictions on the cards for some parts of the country, its more important than ever to stay safe while having fun in the sun.


Multi-media health specialist, Dr. Darren Green, shared a few tips with us on how to stay safe this summer season.


In places like Pretoria, temperatures are already hitting 40 degrees and drinking water is not readily available in some parts of the country – what are the possible dangers of heat stroke in these temperatures and how would you know if you have heat stroke?

The hallmark symptom of heat stroke is a core body temperature above 40 degrees. But fainting may be the first sign.

Other symptoms may include:

- Throbbing headache

- Dizziness and light-headedness

- Lack of sweating despite the heat

- Red, hot, and dry skin

- Muscle weakness or cramps

- Nausea and vomiting

- Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak

- Rapid, shallow breathing

- Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering

- Seizures

- Unconsciousness



Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures but usually in combination with dehydration, so its important to drink lots of water – if a member of your family gets heat stroke what should you do and what if there is no water?

If you suspect that someone has a heat stroke, immediately call an ambulance or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.

While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, initiate first aid - Move the person to an air-conditioned environment, or at least a cool, shady area, and remove any unnecessary clothing.


If possible, take the person's core body temperature and initiate first aid to cool it to 38 degrees Celcius. (If no thermometers are available, don't hesitate to initiate first aid.)


Try these cooling strategies:

- Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.

- Apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.

- Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.



Young children and the elderly are at particular risk of heat stroke because they adjust to changing temperatures more slowly - what are the best ways to prevent heat stroke?

When the heat index is high, it's best to stay in an air-conditioned environment. If you must go outdoors, you can prevent heat stroke by taking these steps:

- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.

- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.

- Drink extra fluids. To prevent dehydration, it's generally recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water, fruit juice, or vegetable juice per day. Because heat-related illness also can result from salt depletion, it may be advisable to substitute an electrolyte-rich sports drink for water during periods of extreme heat and humidity.

- Take additional precautions when exercising or working outdoors. The general recommendation is to drink 24 ounces of fluid two hours before exercise, and consider adding another 8 ounces of water or sports drink right before exercise. During exercise, you should consume another 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes, even if you don't feel thirsty.

- Reschedule or cancel outdoor activity. If possible, shift your time outdoors to the coolest times of the day, either early morning or after sunset.



Every year we hear reports of parents who leave their pets or their children in the car, which leads to disastrous consequences. Why is this so dangerous?

On a day that is just 22 degrees Celcius, the temperature (inside a car) can increase by 10 to 20 degrees in an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes

That overwhelms the brain's temperature control, causing symptoms such as dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness, and/or death.


Make sure to stay safe, hydrated and cool this summer season!



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