As Caribbean countries continue to experience increasing heat stress through a rise in temperatures, humidity and heatwave frequency, exposure to excessive heat can result in several heat stress-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness which occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature; the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.
It can result in permanent disability or death if emergency medical attention is not provided. Statistics from the World Health Organization also revealed that more than 166 000 people died due to heatwaves between 1998 to 2017.
As global temperatures continue to increase yearly, the number of people exposed to heat waves has increased significantly. With the right information at your fingertips, you can learn about the common signs of heart stroke and the necessary precautions you can take to prevent heat stroke and other heat stress-related illnesses.
Increase in body temperature
When individuals become exposed to the sun for a long period with little wind or breeze, they are at a greater risk of suffering from heat stroke. Individuals who suffer from heat stroke generally have a high body temperature, 104 F (40 C) or higher.
Irritability or confusion
Adults similar to children share similar symptoms when they become too hot or too cold. When babies become too hot, they generally communicate this message with adults by crying or being miserable. This is the same for adults when they become exposed to extreme heat some noticeable symptoms include irritability, confusion, agitation and mumbling when they speak.
Another telling sign of heat stroke is a throbbing pain in the head that is caused by dehydration. During hot days the body generally loses more fluid through sweating, therefore in order to prevent dehydration and possibly heat stroke individuals should drink adequate water to replace the fluid lost during sweating.
Dizziness and fainting are also common signs of heat stroke. When the body becomes exposed to extreme heat this may result in a process known as vasovagal syncope which is a sudden loss of consciousness and fainting.
Other common signs of heat stroke include nausea, vomiting and weakness. These are early signs of heat exhaustion, that if not addressed immediately, could result in heat stroke.
What to do if someone has a heat stroke
- Call for emergency assistance
- Move them into a cool environment and remove outer clothing
- Loosely wrap the person in cold damp clothes or a sheet
- Pour cold water over the sheet or clothes
- Continue cooking them until help arrives
- If their temperature returns to normal and they no longer feel hot to touch, you can stop cooling them
- Replace the wet sheet with a dry one and help them to rest
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