Identifying and Treating Heatstroke
With the unprecedentedly hot summers expected to continue all across the United States, it’s no wonder why the CDC predicts that the number of heat-related deaths will also continue to increase as a result of these rising temperatures (Heat-related deaths). And with all the outdoor activities and camping that Californians love to do (especially during the Summer!), it’s imperative that we all be able to know how to recognize, treat, and most importantly avoid heat stroke altogether.
Prolonged exposure to the heat without adequate rest and water can cause a variety of physical symptoms, ranging from the uncomfortable to the fatal; heat stroke however is the potentially fatal medical condition that is caused by extreme heat exhaustion.
What is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body can’t cool itself down as fast as it is heating up, causing the body to lose water and salt, resulting in:
-Dizziness -Goosebumps -Cold/clammy skin
-Nausea -Rapid pulse
-Sweating profusely -Headache
Keep in mind however, that your body doesn’t necessarily have to exceed normal temperatures for heat exhaustion symptoms to arise, and that without being able to see how much you are sweating due to factors dealing with humidity and evaporation, you might not realize how close your body is to heat exhaustion.
While heat stroke refers to the serious medical emergency that happens when one is exposed to the heat for prolonged periods of time, usually without water or an adequate amount thereof, causing the body to exceed temperatures of 104°F, resulting in some or all of the following symptoms:
-Body temperature exceeding 104°F, unable to cool itself down
-Irritability, extreme confusion
-Increased heart rate and respiration
-Red, hot, wet skin
First aid steps for treating heat stroke:
- Immediately call 9-1-1, heat stroke can be fatal if left untreated in as little as half an hour
- Immediately take the person to a shady area and lay them on the ground (though lying a hammock is ideal so that the heat can escape the body from all directions)
- Strip off their clothes to cool their body as fast as possible, fan them with air.
- Don’t shock the body with extreme temperature changes, but do spray them with cold water or dump on their body
- Rub ice cubes on the neck, armpits, groin area, and abdomen
- Monitor their body for temperature changes, immediately get them to an emergency room if symptoms don’t improve or continue to get worse.
In order to avoid coming down with potentially life-threatening heat stroke, it is crucial to know what to do to keep your body healthy in the summer heat while camping. Read and remember the following tips to keep you and your loved ones safe from the risks of the summer heat:
- Drink Water: It’s hard to overstate the importance of hydration when it comes to avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but the key is to always be drinking water-not to just start drinking when you notice you are thirsty.
- Don’t overexert yourself: When camping with your family and friends and enjoying outdoor activities like hiking and biking for example, it can be easy to forget things like taking rest in a shade every so often. But when camping in the summer heat, it’s essential to pay attention to the signs your body is telling you. Rest. Take a break in the shade. Stretch your muscles.
- Dress appropriately and apply sunscreen wisely: Wearing light colors and loose-fitting clothing, along with regularly applying UVA/UVB protection sunscreen are vital components of keeping your body protected from the relentless heat of the sun.
- Plan your days around the heat: Planning on taking a hiking trip during your camping adventure? Be sure to go in the morning so you aren’t on the trail during the hottest part of the day, and always bring plenty of water, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen for all your day trips.
Simply by being prepared with all the right information and tips to stave off heat exhaustion and heat stroke, you can worry about the more important things during your summer camping adventure!