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Fire and Rescue
Stay Cool - Know the Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke

This week’s forecast predicts the weather will be one of the hottest we’ve had so far this year with temps well into the 90s.  As periods of high temperatures continue throughout the summer, individuals should heed weather warnings to avoid becoming a victim of hyperthermia, a heat-related illness referred to as heat stroke/sunstroke. Hyperthermia occurs when the body is exposed to excessive heat and produces or absorbs more heat than it can release causing the body’s temperature to climb.

Hyperthermia can affect anyone, yet children and the elderly are most vulnerable.  Each year, children die from hyperthermia after being left unattended in motor vehicles. In 2012, there were a total of 33 hyperthermia deaths of children left in cars. So far this year, 20 children have died in hot cars due to hyperthermia.  July holds the record for being the most deadly month for children trapped in cars. Safety advocates Kids and Cars and Safe Kids USA remind parents and caregivers to be vigilant and take time, today, to begin implementing and practicing safe measures in the prevention of injuries and deaths caused by vehicular hyperthermia. To prevent this tragedy from occurring parents and caregivers must:

• NEVER leave children unattended in a car – NOT EVEN FOR A MINUTE
• ALWAYS check the back seat of the vehicle before exiting (Beat the Heat,
 Check the Backseat)

Symptoms of hyperthermia are:

• Heat Stress (strain placed on the body as a result of hot weather)
• Heat Fatigue
• Heat Syncope (sudden dizziness)
• Heat Cramps
• Heat Exhaustion
• Heat Stroke

The two most common symptoms of hyperthermia are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Heat stroke is the most dangerous symptom.  When heat stroke occurs, individuals should seek immediate medical attention.  Signs/symptoms of heat stroke are:

• High body temperature (above 103°F)
• Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating)
• Rapid, strong pulse
• Throbbing headache
• Dizziness
• Nausea

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the elderly are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses as heat stress due to underlying medical conditions, lack of air conditioning, social isolation and poor economic status.  To protect the elderly:

• Visit them at least twice a day; watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke
• Take them to air-conditioned locations
• Make sure they have access to an electric fan

One of the first signs/symptoms indicating the body’s temperature is rising is heat exhaustion; a condition that precedes hyperthermia yet is considered less-threatening than heat stroke.  Signs/symptoms of heat exhaustion are:

• Heavy sweating
• Paleness
• Muscle cramps
• Tiredness/fatigue
• Weakness
• Dizziness
• Headache
• Nausea or vomiting
• Fainting
• Skin: cool and moist
• Pulse rate: fast and weak
• Breathing: fast and shallow

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or worse, take immediate action:

• Get to a cooler area, preferably air conditioned, e.g. libraries, shopping malls, community facilities
• Bathe/sponge/shower/spray with cool water (not cold)
• Wrap the body in wet towels or clothes
• Apply cold compresses to torso, head, neck and groin
• Drink water or fruit juice for hydration; avoid caffeine and alcohol
• Seek immediate medical assistance

If strenuous work or activities is unavoidable during daylight hours when temperatures are at their highest or staying indoors is not an option, Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue suggests the following safety tips to protect you and your loved ones against the heat:

• Wear loose-fitting clothing
• Wear clothing light in color and weight
• Wear a wide-brimmed hat with vents also light in color
• Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids


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