Climate change has been steadily pushing up temperatures since the early twentieth century, with the 2000s being officially declared the warmest decade in recorded history. These environmental shifts can have a negative impact on human health – during the ever-increasing summer heats, people are more likely to succumb to heat illnesses, including heat exhaustion and, the most extreme and life-threatening form, heat stroke.
Rising global temperatures are of such concern that the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated at least 150,000 American men, women, and children will die by the year 2100. The NRDC reported this figure in 2012, making the average expected death toll about 1,700. Compare this figure to the average number of yearly heat stroke deaths observed in the US from 1999 to 2000 at 658.
Temperatures may be rising, but heat stroke is a completely preventable illness. Educating yourself on the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their causes can help you stay safe while you enjoy your favorite summer activities.
The Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Prolonged periods of time in the heat, whether outside under the sun or inside buildings without sufficient air conditioning, can increase the risk of developing a heat-related illness, which includes heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Oftentimes, heat exhaustion, if ignored, can be the beginning stage of heat stroke. Heat exhaustion may not present immediately. Symptoms can take days to appear and include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast, weak pulse.Onset of heat stroke generally occurs when body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms may include:
- Confusion or alterations in normal behavior, such as irritability.
- Slurred speech.
- Lack of sweating. Skin will feel hot and dry to the touch.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Red skin.
- Rapid and shallow breathing.
- Racing heart rate.
Heat stroke can be made worse by certain prescription medicines, preexisting medical conditions, high humidity, and alcohol consumption
If you suspect you or someone else has succumbed to heat stroke, seek medical treatment immediately. Heat stroke is a serious, life-threatening condition that, when left untreated, can lead to long-term damage of the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles.
According to skinsight, a resource listed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are certain first aid measures one can administer while waiting for emergency services, including:
- Getting the individual to a cooler area, whether in the shade, a car, or building, and having them rest with their legs slightly elevated.
- Loosening or removing tight clothing.
- Applying cold compresses to head, neck, armpits, and groin.
- Wrapping person with wet cloth and placing a fan in front of them to allow evaporation to cool them down.
- Having them drink an electrolyte drink that does not contain caffeine or alcohol.
It should be noted that you should never rely on these measures alone, as heat stroke requires professional medical attention.
14 ways to prevent heat stroke according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC’s advice for preventing heat stroke is simple: Stay cool. Stay hydrated. Stay informed. Here’s how they break it down:
1.Wear lightweight clothing. Avoid dark colors and tight fits.
2. Stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. If you don’t have AC, go to a shopping mall, library, or other public space that does. Having a fan blowing on you simply won’t cut it when temperatures soar above 90 degrees.
3. Limit outdoor activities to morning or evening hours. Rest in the shade as often as possible.
4. Don't overexert yourself. If you’re not used to exercising in the heat, start slowly and gradually.
5. Wear broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Sunburn can diminish your body’s ability to cool itself down.
6. Never leave children or pets in cars, even with a window cracked open. It only takes 20 minutes for a vehicle to reach 109 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature is 80 degrees – after an hour the car can reach 123 degrees!
7. Avoid large, hot meals as they can increase body temperature. Gazpacho anyone?
8. Drink more fluids, even if you’re not exerting yourself. And don’t wait until you’re parched.
9. Avoid sugary and alcoholic beverages, as they can cause dehydration.
10. Replace electrolytes lost through sweat.
11. Don’t forget about your fur babies! Make sure they have access to numerous water sources.
12. Keep up to date on the latest weather patterns and daily temperature highs.
13. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke. (How convenient we’ve provided you with this information and resources.)
14. Check in on high risk groups, including the elderly, infants and young children, outdoor workers, those with preexisting conditions, and the overweight and obese. Just remember even healthy and physically fit individuals can still suffer from heat stroke.
With the recommendation for extra hydration this summer, why not drink water purified right in your own home? In addition to the CDC’s other preventative measures, drinking purified water can help you reduce the risk of developing a heat-related illness, while also reducing your exposure to toxins found in tap water, such as arsenic, lead, chromium-6, and disinfection byproducts.
Check out the countertop reverse osmosis water filtration system by AquaTru. AquaTru is so efficient it can turn Diet Coke into purified water and requires zero installation. Purify tap water in your own home at a fraction of the cost of purchasing bottled water and fill reusable containers to bring with you during your outdoor excursions. Since AquaTru is portable, you can use it in RVs, at campsites, or other outdoor events.