Summer Safety Tips: Learn How to Prevent Heatstroke

By Don Finley

With temperatures already reaching well into the upper 90s, it’s no surprise that many in San Antonio are starting to feel the heat this summer. The hot South Texas temperatures seem to be especially hard on those who work and play outside and are not used to the high temperatures, which puts them at an increased risk of heatstroke or heat illness.

“The exertional stuff we see a lot of times are with athletes,” said Dr. Steven Moore, an emergency physician at UT Health San Antonio, “You start two-a-days in August and these people have been in air-conditioning all summer long and they finally go out, they put on a full set of pads and they go out into the heat and work out.”

Dr. Juan Garza, an emergency department physician at University Hospital, adds that though the majority of heat illness occurs in older adults, he expects to see more athletes succumb to the heat as the summer progresses. He explained, “Fifty to 89 years old is where the majority of illnesses occur, but now, some are coming up in sports. We are going to see a lot more men and younger males involved.”

How Do I Know If I Have Heatstroke?

Often most people do not suspect they are at risk. This makes heatstroke more dangerous.

“We’ve seen it in patients who didn’t suspect it at all.” Dr. Mark Muir, a University Hospital trauma surgeon said, “It can be just a moderately warm day, and maybe they’re doing a little bit more than they normally do.”

Usually one of the first signs of heatstroke is when you stop sweating and your skin becomes hot and dry.

Other signs include:

  • Cramping
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion/ unusual behavior
  • Minimal or no sweating
  • Severe headache
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dark colored urine

Dr. Garza adds “There is neurological involvement, so they could be seizing, they could be comatose, usually flushed pale, they are usually not responsive or severely altered.”

How Can I Prevent Heatstroke?

There are many things you can do to prevent heatstroke, including:

  • Wearing lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing as well as hats to protect you from the sun.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids (water, fruit or vegetable juice) before, during and after you work outside
  • Use sunscreen with a good SPF factor

“Don’t go out and drink a whole bunch,” Dr. Moore emphasized. “Get plenty of sleep. Do hydrate before you work out, or try to work in the cooler times of the day.It’s a good idea to check the weather to see how hot it’s going to be or how high the humidity is going to be, and then make a decision from there.”

How Do I Protect My Kids from Heatstroke?

Young kids are especially vulnerable to the heat. As a caregiver of a small child its always important to monitor your child’s exposure to the heat and sun and to remember to never leave your child alone in a car for any period of time.

You can also help reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to ACT:

Avoid- Never leave a child alone in a car

Create a reminder- Put something you need in the back of the car with your child

Take action- Call 911 immediately if you see a child alone in a car

How Do I Help Someone with Heatstroke?

If you suspect that someone is suffering from heat illness it is important to first call 911 or seek emergency medical help as quickly as possible.

Additionally, it is important to remove any clothing you can and to cool the body off with ice packs placed under the arms or in the groin area.

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