How to prevent heatstroke

Know the signs of heat exhaustion to prevent an emergency

Author: Liz Kovac

Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency that starts as heat exhaustion. “To prevent heat exhaustion, it is important to hydrate properly, rest in a cool place, wear light and loose clothing, and avoid alcohol,” said Dr. Joseph Zajchowski, Chief Medical Officer at McLaren Lapeer Region.

How to recognize and treat heat exhaustion

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Loss of appetite or feeling sick
  • Excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
  • Fast breathing or pule
  • High temperature
  • High thirst

If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion, here's what to do:

  • Move them to a cool place
  • Get them to lie down and raise their feet
  • Have them drink water
  • Cool their skin with water or ice
  • Stay with them for 30 minutes to make sure their symptoms decrease

How to recognize heatstroke

Heat exhaustion can easily become heatstroke if not tended to. Heatstroke includes all the above heat exhaustion symptoms, plus:

  • A temperature over 104F
  • Irrational behavior or hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Seizures Loss of consciousness
  • Dry skin

Call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room if you see someone experiencing the symptoms above. In the meantime, care for them by doing the following:

  • Move them to a cooler area
  • Loosen clothing or remove any sweaty clothing
  • Apply cool, wet towels to the face, neck, chest, and limbs
  • Apply ice to underarms, wrists, and groin
  • Fan them
  • Offer cool water or sports drinks every 15 minutes if the person is conscious

According to the National Safety Council, an average of 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. Never leave a child or pet alone in a parked car, even with the air conditioning on or with the windows down.

If you see a child or pet alone in a vehicle, make sure they are responsive. If they are not, call 911. In the meantime, attempt to get into the car to assist them – even if it means breaking a window.

If they are conscious and responsive, attempt to locate the parents or owner. For example, if the car is parked at a store, have the facility call the car-owner over their intercom system.

For more helpful health information from McLaren Lapeer Region, click here.