With temperatures soaring across the United States, and across much of Europe, finding a way to cool off isn’t just a matter of comfort. It’s become a matter of life and death.
In fact, the current heat wave has already claimed at least one life here in the USA.
Heat stoke occurs when your core temperature spikes over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. When this happens, your body is no longer able to cool itself down. And frighteningly, heat stroke can sneak up on you if you’re not careful.
Once heat stroke sets in vital organs, including your brain, begin to swell. This can lead to delirium and, eventually, even permanent brain damage.
But knowing what to look, and having some solutions for cooling down when the temperatures skyrocket, can help you avoid heat stroke.
Keep reading to find out how to spot potential heat stroke. And advice on how to cool down to keep yourself out of the danger zone.
Extreme heat short circuits your natural cooling system
Your core temperature should be somewhere between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. And your body generally does an excellent job of maintaining this window.
When your core temp starts to climb beyond these limits your body will begin to sweat. This not only helps you feel cooler, when it evaporates off your skin it helps dissipate the heat cooling your body.
In extreme heat, your blood vessels begin to expand and your body pushes overheated blood up towards the surface and away from your important organs. If you’ve ever been stuck in the heat and felt yourself getting flushed and red faced this is a sign these changes are taking place.
But when the mercury rises above 95, as it has been lately here in the United States and across much of Europe, your body’s ability to cool itself starts to break down. And if you’re exposed to the heat for too long, you’re in danger of heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion & heat stroke
There are several warning signs of heat exhaustion—the stage before heat stroke—you should be on the lookout for…
- extreme sweating
- muscle spasms or cramps
- skin redness
- feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- confusion or delirium
- rapid, shallow breathing
- sudden stop to sweating as dehydration takes hold
When your skin becomes hot and DRY it’s often a sign your body’s cooling system has completely shut down, and heat stroke has begun. As your core temperature climbs to 104 degrees your critical organs including your muscles, kidneys, heart and brain begin to swell.
Staying cool (& heat stroke safe) when temps soar
If you’re a senior, or have circulation or health issues, you’re at a higher risk for heat stroke. And with the temperatures soaring outside, it’s important to take steps to avoid overheating.
On days when the temperatures climb into the 90s or above, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. And whenever possible stay inside in the air-conditioning.
If you’re home isn’t air conditioned consider spending the day somewhere like a mall or at least catch a movie during the worst heat of the day. And once home place fans in your windows facing out to clear your home of the heat that’s built up during the day.
If you have to be outdoors…
- wear loose, breathable clothing
- seek out shade
- take it easy
- drink LOTS of fluids
If you feel as if you’re becoming overheated, try running cool water over blood vessel rich spots such as your neck, wrists, armpits and groin to avoid heat stroke. Or place some ice in a plastic bag, wrap it in a towel and place it in the same spots for five minutes at a time, followed by a five minute break. Or better yet, head indoors and hop into a cool bath or shower.
The best way to beat heat stroke is to stay cool in the first place. So while we’re stuck in this dangerous heat wave make sure you take steps to stay hydrated and cool.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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