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During the hot summer months thousands of people are treated for heat exhaustion caused by over exposure to high temperatures or over activity in hot weather. Most cases occur when the person is outside of the house, yet in some cases a person has been overcome in a hot, poorly ventilated room or work place. Since heat exhaustion, when left untreated, can lead to a heat stroke, or what is often called sunstroke, it should be considered very dangerous. In fact, a heat stroke left untreated can be life threatening.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion are prolonged heavy sweating, paleness, clammy skin, nausea, muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, weakening of the body and extreme fatigue. The heavy sweating causes the victim to loose much needed fluids and electrolytes. Since the temperature is hot the sweat evaporates preventing the body temperature from rising. It is then that the victim begins having symptoms of heat exhaustion and if exposure continues they may collapse or faint. The main difference in a heat stroke and heat exhaustion is that with a heat stroke the person will sweat very slightly or not at all. A heat stroke will also produce a rapid pulse, flushed skin and the victim will either become very lethargic or fall unconscious. In some cases a heat stroke victim may even have seizures. With a heat stroke the victim’s temperature will shoot up above 104 degrees Fahrenheit very quickly.
To treat a person with heat stroke symptoms you should begin by calling for medical help immediately. In a case where you believe the person has heat exhaustion or a heat stroke, either one, you should do the following. Whether the victim is responding or not you should move him to a cool, shady area. Try to find a place that is breezy or move the victim to an air conditioned room. Lay the victim down and loosen all his clothing. Place cold, wet towels on his forehead and the back of the neck. If the person is conscious try to get them to drink cool, lightly salted water made by mixing one teaspoon of salt with a quart of water. This will help alleviate any cramping. You can also give the victim salted fruit drinks like those made for athletes. Only allow the victim to drink small amounts at frequent intervals. In most cases one half glass every five minutes will suffice. If you can determine by the symptoms that the victim has heat stroke you will need to undress him. If possible wrap the victim in a wet sheet and place ice in the groin area, as well as, the armpits. Place additional ice on the victim’s chest and blow air on his body with a fan or even your hands. When the victim’s temperature drops to 101 degrees Fahrenheit you should cover him with a dry sheet and resume the treatment only if the body temperature rises again. If the heat stroke victim wakes you should also try to get them to drink lightly salted water or fruit juices.