By Tessa Roy, Essex Rescue
As summer rolls in and brings us hotter and hotter temperatures it seems fitting to write this month’s article on heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two dangerous conditions we start to see as people’s bodies struggle to stay cool in hot temperatures. Becoming too hot can be deadly, as evidenced by the four fatalities in the Chittenden County area during the heat wave we had just a few weeks ago.
Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, excessive sweating, a weak and rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and cool, pale skin. The cool, pale skin is especially important to note because that is one of the best signs for whether someone is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
In cases of heat stroke, the patient will have hot, dry skin because the body has lost the ability to sweat. Other signs and symptoms of heat stroke include a throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting, a rapid yet strong pulse, and a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention. Call 911. If you or someone you are with seems to be suffering from heat exhaustion move to a cooler place, take a cold shower, and if fully conscious drink water to rehydrate. If you or someone you know is suffering from heat stroke you should move to a cooler spot, make sure the person is shaded from the sun, and try to cool them down. This can be done by fanning them or using a cold compress.
For both heat exhaustion and heat stroke it is prudent to call 911 and have EMS respond to perform an evaluation and transport you to the hospital if needed. If a trip to the hospital is necessary we’ll take the patient into our air-conditioned ambulance, start an IV, administer fluids, and if their body temperature is above 104 degrees, then we’ll actively cool the patient down. Active cooling typically involves removing the patients clothing, misting the skin with cool water and fanning, or placing ice packs around the chest and torso.
Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can come on more rapidly for individuals with underlying health issues, individuals who have trouble staying hydrated, and those who don’t have air conditioning or another way to stay cool as temperatures soar.
As we move through summer and continue to see temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s, be sure to stay hydrated and limit your time out in the sun, especially if you’re doing strenuous physical activity. At the first signs of heat exhaustion be sure to take a break and get somewhere cool. Rest and drink fluids until you feel better. Everyone here at Essex Rescue wishes you a fun, happy, and safe summer!
As always if you’re interested in volunteering with Essex Rescue as an EMT or a driver please contact Colleen Nesto at 847-4859 ext 4.