Baby, it’s hot outside!

Every year, thousands of people in the world die from hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature.

There are several stages of hyperthermia.  When a patient begins to have heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast pulse, they have “heat exhaustion”.    They may also develop nausea, vomiting, and headache.  As their symptoms progress, they may develop low blood pressure, and even faint.

If the patient is not cooled down, the patient can then progress “heat stroke”.  Their symptoms progress to confusion and agitation.  They may lose the ability to perspire.  Young children may have seizures.  Ultimately, this will lead to organ failure, loss of consciousness, and death.

Who is most sensitive to the heat?  Young children, the elderly, and patients on certain medications such as heart medications or psychiatric medications are particularly vulnerable.

What about exercising?  Exercising in extreme heat can be very dangerous.  Heat stroke from exercise is one of the three leading causes of sudden death in sports activities!  The death rate is particularly high in football players.

Every year, 38 children will die in the United States from being left in a hot car.   In addition, hundreds of animals left in hot vehicles will also die this way.

What should you do to help someone who has hyperthermia?  They should be taken out of the sun, and placed in a cool place.  Cooling methods such as sponging with cool water and turning on a fan or air conditioner near the patient can return the body’s temperature to normal.  The patient should be given fluids by mouth if they are alert.  If the patient is confused or vomiting, they will need to go to the hospital.



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