Heat stroke can occur when your core body temperature quickly reaches 103°F or higher as a result of high heat and humidity. The condition is a medical emergency and requires immediate care.
While heat stroke can affect anyone, infants, young children, older adults, and people with chronic medical conditions are among the most vulnerable. You can lower your risk of heat stroke by staying aware and taking precautions.
Internal medicine specialists Bharat Gandhi, MD, and Priya Gandhi, MD, MPH, at Medinet Family Care Clinic in Houston, Texas, can assess your overall wellness and risk of heat stroke during a comprehensive physical exam.
During these appointments, your medical team determines the status of chronic conditions, assesses your risk of new health issues, and recommends lifestyle changes to reduce your chances for problems such as heat stroke.
While your risk for heat stroke depends on your individual condition and lifestyle, here are seven tips that everyone can use to avoid this condition:
1. Stay hydrated
To remain hydrated, you have to drink more liquids than your body loses by sweating. Guidelines from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advise that women consume 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water daily and men consume 15.5 cups (3.7 liters).
Factors such as your body mass and how much you sweat can also affect your ideal water intake. To make sure you’re consuming enough water, do the following:
- Monitor daily water intake
- Drink water immediately when you feel thirsty
- Avoid caffeinated coffee, tea, soda, and alcohol in the heat
- Increase water intake when you’re outside in the heat
- Eat foods such as melons, berries, grapes, and lettuce, that have a high water content
- Check that your urine is clear or straw-colored, indicating that you’re properly hydrated
2. Avoid the hottest period of the day
Schedule outside physical labor or exercise in the early morning or evening, which are typically the cooler periods of the day. The hottest time of the day is usually between 2:00pm and 5:00pm, though this can vary by region and season.
Pay attention to your local heat index, a number that measures the air temperature plus the effects of humidity. A heat index of 90°F or higher requires caution and increases your risk of heat stroke.
3. Wear appropriate clothing
Clothing that fits tightly doesn’t allow your body to cool properly. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that allows air to circulate when you’re planning to be outside for long periods of time.
Wear light colors that reflect heat and light. Natural fibers like cotton soak up sweat and allow heat to escape so you can stay cool.
Since you can lose up to 50% of your body heat from your scalp and face, ensure that your hat allows for proper ventilation of your body’s heat from your head.
4. Use sunscreen
Sunburn decreases your body’s ability to cool itself. Protecting yourself with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 can help protect you from this condition.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses provides additional sun protection. Avoid direct sun by staying in the shade or under an umbrella when you’re outside.
5. Know your risk
Being male, age 65 or older, and/or overweight can make you more susceptible to heat stroke. Young, healthy athletes who exercise for long periods in the heat also have an increased risk.
You are more vulnerable to heat stroke if you take prescription medications that affect your body’s ability to remain hydrated and dissipate heat. These medications can include water pills, tranquilizers, antihistamines, laxatives, beta blockers, and medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease and mental illness.
6. Get acclimated to the heat
If you’re working or exercising in the heat, it’s important to start slowly so your body can adapt. You can accomplish acclimatization over 7-14 days by gradually increasing your exposure to working or exercising in a hot environment.
During repeated exposure to the heat, your body improves sweating efficiency, stabilizes circulation, and increases your ability to work in a hot environment. Working without experience in the heat can increase your risk of heat stroke.
7. Understand signs of heat stroke
Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency that can damage your brain and other internal organs, and even cause death. Call 911 immediately if you or a companion have any of the following symptoms accompanied by an elevated body temperature of 103°F or higher:
- Hot, dry, red, or damp skin
- Strong, rapid pulse
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Altered mental state or hallucinations
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
Find out more about the dangers of heat stroke and what you can do to prevent your risk of this life-threatening condition by contacting us at Medinet Family Care Clinic. Book an appointment online or over the phone today. We also offer televisit appointments.