Sun Stroke or Heat Stroke or is a condition of hyperthermia (overheating) wherein the body temperature increases dramatically. It usually happens in summer season due to soaring heat or when a person is exposed to extreme temperatures. Sun Stroke is usually accompanied by dehydration. It is a health emergency that calls for immediate medical intervention failing which it could even be fatal.
Common symptoms of Sunstroke include:
- High body temperature(104 *F/40 *C)
- Variations in behaviour or mental status- confusion, slurring, agitation, irritability,loss of consciousness and coma (in severe cases)
- A throbbing Headache and Vertigo
- Dry skin
- Severe flushing in the face
- Sensitivity to light
- Nausea, vomiting and dizziness
- Fast breathing/Increased pulse rate
- Muscular cramps and aches
Causes of Heat Stroke
- Classical Heat Stroke or Non-Exertional Heat Strokes (NEHS) occurs due to prolonged exposure to hot and humid weather. It typically occurs in older people or patients with chronic ailments
- Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS) occurs as a result of intense physical exercise done in hot environments causing elevated body temperatures.
Additionally dehydration, wearing excess clothing (that hinders sweating) and consumption of alcoholic beverages (hampering regulation of body temperature) in hot weather causes Heat Strokes.
Heat Stroke Treatment
Treating Heat Stroke focusses on administering First Aid Steps f or restoring the patient’s normal body temperature and giving fluid supplementation. In severe cases of heat stroke, it is important to transport the victim to hospital immediately.
- Body cooling techniques used normally include-
- Quickly immersing the victim in cold water to prevent permanent organ/brain damage and reduce the probability of death.
- Deploying evaporation cooling techniques by sprinkling cold water on the body and simultaneously circulating warm air for cooling the skin surface.
- Doing ice-packing on the neck, back, groin and armpits for reducing temperature and covering the body with specially devised cooling blankets. Caution: This method should not be used for seniors, patients with chronic illness and children.
- Medications for Sunstroke – Sometimes cooling techniques causes shivering in patients. For this doctors prescribe muscle relaxants like benzodiazepine which controls shivers, manages convulsions and provides sedation. Additionally, intravenous fluids may be infused for replenishing the body to prevent dehydration . Urine alkalisation is done using sodium bicarbonate for preventing renal failures. Diuretic drugs with antioxidant properties may also be used for protecting kidneys.
Sunstroke treatment at home
- Moving the patient to a cool, shady or air-conditioned area and removing any unnecessary clothing.
- Measuring the core body temperature (if possible)
- Using cooling methods like cold water sponging or sprinkling, fanning or any of above techniques to restore normal body temperature.
- Hydrating the patient with plenty of fluids like coconut water, buttermilk, onion juice, tamarind or raw mango (aam panna) drinks, mint and coriander leaves juice, apple cider vinegar and giving anti-oxidants like plums.
- Giving electrolyte replenishment (such as sodium) if there is excessive sweating.
Usually with quick effective treatment heat stroke victims recover fast without health hazards. Hospitalized patients need 1-2 days for initial recovery. If internal organ damages detected, complete recovery may take longer (2 months- 1 year)
Home health care for elderly
Elderly people have the highest risk factor of facing heat strokes especially if they dwell in homes without good air circulation or have chronic health problems. The following precautions can help prevent this-
- Consuming lot of healthy beverages, more so when exercising.
- Periodically taking cool showers.
- Wearing loose, comfortable and light coloured clothing to minimize sweating.
- Sprinkling water over skin or clothes.
- Staying indoors during hot peak hours and ensuring good ventilation
- Avoiding consumption of alcohol/caffeine.
- Not doing rigorous exercises.
- Monitoring urine colour and weight before and after exercising to avoid dehydration