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Heatwaves raise risk of heat strokes
July 30, 2018, 1:20 pm

Fierce heatwaves are becoming a standard staple of summer season in many countries and consequently the risk of heatstroke is at all-time highs.

Heatwaves not only cause heatstroke, they are also known to cause breathing difficulties and exacerbate preexisting medical conditions, particularly among the very young, the elderly and others having problems associated with excessive heat exposure.

Recognizing symptoms of heatstroke or spotting it in someone is relatively easy as there are several tell-tale early warning signs. If you notice that you or a loved one have stopped sweating this can be late finding and should be taken seriously before neurological complications arise. Other severe symptoms indicating heatstroke include: pale, red or dry skin, confusion, trouble walking, dilated pupils, vomiting, inappropriate or uncharacteristic behavior, rapid or racing heart rate, rapid breathing, seizures and unconsciousness.

If you or someone near you is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, seeking immediate medical attention could be a lifesaving action. Call the emergency medical professionals who can immediately begin treatment by intravenous hydration and other methods.

When you or someone else begins to show signs of heatstroke, the first thing you should do is move them to a cool or shady place out of the sun. Fanning the person while keeping their skin wet with towels will also help. If ice packs are available, apply them to key areas, such as the groin, armpits, back and neck.

Depending on the severity of the heatstroke, recovery can take several days. Left untreated, experts say, heatstroke can cause lasting damage to your brain, muscles, kidneys, and other important organs.

But experts suggest it is best to prevent heatstroke by being aware of not only the temperature but also what you are putting into and excreting out of your body.

It is important to drink plenty of cool fluids in the heat. Water is best, but if you have been working out in the heat or exercising for more than an hour then drinks that replace electrolytes lost during excessive sweating should be consumed. Do not drink sugary drinks in the heat since this leads to dehydration due to excessive water loss.

Health experts warn that children are also at extreme risk when they are left out in a hot car, even for short duration, and that leaving the windows open is not. You may have seen the videos of people baking cookies on the dashboards of their cars. A car sitting in 21°C heat can get up to 38°C or more in as little as a half hour.

Similar to children, older people are just as susceptible to overheating and developing heatstroke. As we age, our bodies lose their ability to regulate our internal body temperature, similar to small children. Seniors are also more likely to have other medical conditions and are more likely to be taking medications that affect their ability to tolerate high temperatures or sweat.

Besides children, elderly and those working outdoors or exercising, people with chronic diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and coronary artery disease are at higher risk for heat-related conditions.

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