Learn to recognize symptoms of heat stroke

By Kate Despres

With temperatures already reaching well into the 100s, it’s no surprise that many in San Antonio are starting to feel the heat.

Increased exposure outside during the hot days of summer can contribute to heat stroke and heat exhaustion – two health dangers you should take seriously.

Are you at risk?

Everyone is at risk when it comes to heat stroke and exhaustion. Yes, some people have a better tolerance for the heat, but no one is immune.

Infants and young children tend to be the most at risk because they have not experienced consistent warm temperatures and heat exposure. It is critical small children should not be left in cars in warm temperatures. The National Safety Council provides more information and statistics from 2018 on kids and hot cars.

"A car can heat up 19 degrees in 10 minutes. And cracking a window doesn’t help,” said Jennifer Northway, director of injury prevention. “Heatstroke can happen anytime, anywhere. We don’t want to see this happen to any family. That’s why Safe Kids San Antonio is asking everyone to help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”

Others at risk for heat stroke and exhaustion include:

  • People 65 and older
  • People who are ill, have chronic health conditions, or are prescribed certain medications
  • People who are overweight
  • People who work outdoors

Remember, no one is immune – keep yourself hydrated.

What are the signs & symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion?

Heat-related illnesses happen when the body can’t properly cool itself down through its normal sweating process. When your body temperature rises too fast, it can endanger your health and vital organs.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are both serious heat-related illnesses. The difference between the two is heat exhaustion causes lethargy, among other symptoms, and can be the precursor to a heat stroke.

Heat stroke:
  • High body temperature
  • Flushed, dry or damp skin
  • Racing heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
Heat Exhaustion:
  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

Six tips to prevent heat-related illnesses

To prevent exhaustion or stroke during prolonged heat exposure, be aware of your body and take the proper precautions before activity. “Many mature adults don’t drink enough water to stay hydrated," said Northway. " As we enter into the hot Texas summer, adults need to increase their fluid intake by drinking cool, nonalcoholic beverages regardless of their activity level. Dehydration contributes to heat exhaustion.”

Here are six important tips:

  1. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing to allow your body to cool.
  2. Protect against sunburn. Apply and reapply sunscreen regularly and wear protective hats and sunglasses.
  3. Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day (3-4p.m.).
  4. Plan ahead by identifying times for rest in the shade during outdoor activity and pacing yourself during physical exertion. Have a friend or family member keep track of your condition while outside and do the same for them.
  5. Do not leave anyone in a parked car. You can ACT: A – Avoid leaving your child alone in a vehicle. C – Create reminders by putting an item that you’ll need in your backseat. T – Take immediate action if you see a child alone in a car.
  6. Stay hydrated. The best way to hydrate is to drink fluids before, during and after any activity.

What to do in an emergency

If you think you or someone around you is experiencing a heat stroke call 911 immediately.

  • Move person to shade or the indoors
  • Remove excess clothing
  • Cool the person with cold, wet towels or cool water. Ice packs to the groin and armpits can be more effective.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information about heat-related illnesses: what to look for and what to do.

Test your knowledge on sun exposure.

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