"Knowing how to prevent and care for heat stroke can save a life," insists Richard Grant, M.D., acting chairman of the division of geriatrics at Albert Einstein Medical Center here in Philadelphia.
"The elderly are susceptible to heat stroke because of pre-existing medical conditions and/ or prescription medications they are taking. In addition, older adults cannot adjust to the heat as well as younger individuals," explains Grant.
That does not, of course, include infants and toddlers, who should be kept indoors and cool in extreme temperatures.
Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature quickly rises out of control to 106 degrees or above within minutes.
Warning signs include extremely high body temperature of 103 degrees or more; red, hot, dry skin, but no sweat; a strong, rapid pulse; headache; nausea; and dizziness.
To prevent heat stroke, Grant offers these words of wisdom:
• Drink plenty of fluids, preferably cool water. Do not choose beverages that have sugar, caffeine or alcohol, as they cause dehydration.
• Seek air-conditioning, especially during the day. If air-conditioning is not available at home, go to a public place, such as a library, coffee shop or mall. At the very least, use an electric fan, but if doing so indoors, crack open windows for ventilation.
• Wear lightweight, breathable, light-colored clothing. Dark colors attract sunlight, and heavy clothes increase body temperature.
• Avoid rigorous activity. Don't exert yourself unnecessarily, and rest when possible.
• Take cool showers and baths. This will help maintain a healthy, normal body temperature.
"Prevention is the most important factor in heat-stroke protection," says Grant. However, if heat stroke occurs, you can avoid serious injury or even death by:
• Calling for medical attention as quickly as possible.
• Cooling down. Try to decrease the body temperature to around 102 degrees and lower with cool water in a bathtub, shower or an unheated swimming pool.
• Monitoring body temperature. Routinely check body temperature to make sure that it is stable.
• Drink, drink, drink! Your body craves fluids, so keep the water coming. You can also take in water ice and popsicles throughout the day; after all, it is summertime!
This article appears in cooperation with the Albert Einstein Medical Center.