As temperatures rise, it’s essential to be wary of heat-related illnesses. Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness (CDC, 2012). Some other examples of heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, and rhabdomyolysis (CDC, 2012). You may be most at risk of heat stroke if you work in hot environments such as outdoors, in factories, boiler rooms, if you are over the age of 65 or under the age of 4, and have existing health conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure (CDC, 2012). But fear not! Let’s take a look at heat stroke and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
What is it?
Heat stroke occurs when the body cannot regulate its temperature anymore, causing body temperature to rise quickly and an inability to cool down (CDC, 2012). Under normal circumstances, when your body gets warmer, you sweat to cool yourself off (CDC, 2012). However, when the increase in temperature is too fast, it may not be enough (CDC, 2012). High body temperatures can also affect the brain and other vital organs within the body (CDC, 2012). In some cases of heat stroke, body temperature can rise to 41.1 degrees Celsius (normal body temperature ranges from 36.1 to 37.2 degrees Celsius) within just 10-15 minutes and can even cause permanent disability or death (MedlinHope ePlus, n.d.). Humidity is a factor that can also affect your body’s ability to cool down, as when it is excessively humid, your sweat will now evaporate as quickly, preventing your body from releasing heat effectively and maintaining itself (CDC, 2012).
What are the Warning Signs?
There are a few things to note when looking for signs of heat stroke. Here is a list of symptoms you may find in someone experiencing heat stroke (CDC, 2012):
- Body temperature above 39.4 degrees Celsius.
- Red, dry skin with no sweat
- Increased heart rate
- Dizziness and nausea
What to do in Cases of Heat Stroke?
If you notice any of the signs listed above, call for assistance from emergency medical personnel while trying the following (CDC, 2012):
- Bring them to a shady area away from heat.
- Try to cool them down however you can, such as immersing them in cool water, wrapping them in a wet sheet, or fanning them.
- Continue efforts until body temperature drops.
Preventing Heat Stroke
In order to prevent heat stroke from occurring in the first place, there are a few things you can do!
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can prevent your body from producing enough sweat to regulate its temperature (BetterHealth, n.d.).
- Stay inside on hot days. If you must go out, stay in the shade and rest often. Try to limit activities to cooler parts of the day, such as when the sun has gone down (BetterHealth, n.d.).
- Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes and protect exposed skin with a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen (BetterHealth, n.d.).
- Use damp towels and water to keep yourself cool (BetterHealth, n.d.).
Heat Stroke and Your Furry Friends
Signs of heat stroke may be more challenging to identify in animals. Some breeds of dogs and cats with short muzzles may also have a harder time breathing in extreme heat (The Humane Society, n.d.). Here are a few things to watch for, especially if your pets are older, very young, overweight, or have heart or respiratory diseases (The Humane Society, n.d.):
- Heavy panting and difficulty breathing
- Glazed eyes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lethargy, dizziness and lack of coordination
- Vomiting and seizure
- Deep red or purple tongue
How to Protect Your Pets
Heat stroke doesn’t affect only humans but your pets as well! It’s important to be mindful of your pets’ tolerance to heat so you can protect them from heat stroke.
- Never leave pets in parked cars, even with the air conditioning on. Temperatures inside vehicles can rise rapidly even if windows are slightly open and may cause your pet to suffer organ damage or even death (The Humane Society, n.d.).
- Be careful about humidity. Humidity makes it difficult for pets to pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which is how they sweat (The Humane Society, n.d.). If they cannot pant, they will be unable to cool themselves.
- Limit exercise when it’s hot out to morning or evenings when it’s cooler out. During the day, asphalt can get very hot and burn your pet’s paws, so if possible, keep them on the grass (The Humane Society, n.d.).
- Bring water for both of you. Pets also need to stay hydrated, so make sure they have enough water to drink!
In terms of treating pets with heat stroke, many of the tips above should work just as well! If your pet is not feeling better, take them directly to a veterinarian (The Humane Society, n.d.).
BetterHealth. (n.d.). Heat related illness-preventing heatstroke. BetterHealth. Retrieved Jul 19, 2023, from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/heat-stress-preventing-heatstroke
CDC. (2012). Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Extreme Heat. CDC. Retrieved Jul 19, 2023, from: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.html#:~:text=Who%20is%20at%20greatest%20risk,ill%20or%20on%20certain%20medications.
MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Body temperature norms. MedlinePlus. Retrieved Jul 19, 2023, from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001982.htm#:~:text=The%20average%20normal%20body%20temperature,by%20an%20infection%20or%20illness.
The Humane Society. (n.d.). Keep pets safe in the heat. The Humane Society. Retrieved Jul 19, 2023, from: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/keep-pets-safe-heat