Heat Stroke: Tips to stay safe as temperatures soar

Heat stroke is certainly no laughing matter. Each summer, a heat wave rolls over Australia, precipitating a rash of death and hospitalisations related to heat stroke.

As much of the nation braces for a heat wave, it is important to consider how to prevent this deadly condition.

Heat stroke is when a person’s core body temperature rises too high, often more than 40 C, because high environmental temperature, typically over 32 C and humidity over 70% prevents the body from cooling through its normal means of sweating and breathing. As heat stroke develops, our heart beats fast, our lungs breathe fast, we feel dizzy and nauseated. Our muscles cramp, and we become confused, eventually losing consciousness entirely.

Without medical intervention, heat stroke is often fatal. In fact, Australia State of the Environment 2016 notes 1093 Australians died in 2007 from heat related illness.

Victims of heat stroke can be of any age, often it is those over the age of 70. As people age, our bodies’ ability to cool declines, and the elderly often take medication that further impairs this ability. In addition, the elderly may not have working air conditioning in their home, nor have anyone to check on them.

So what can you do to reduce your risk?

Hydration, rest and finding a cool environment are the keys to preventing heat stroke. If you don’t have an air conditioned home or car, steps to take include wearing light, breathable clothing; avoiding time in direct sunlight; not exercising during the hot hours of the day; spraying yourself with water and sitting in front of a fan; taking a cool bath or shower; or placing a cold pack on your neck or armpit. In a heat wave, please take time to check in with your elderly neighbours, family and friends, to make sure they have the means to stay cool.

Fans help, not by lowering the air temperature, but by causing air movement over the skin. So fans are useful when there is no air conditioning, but having an air conditioned space is best.

Heat stroke is preventable – just stay cool and stay hydrated. Simple, right? But during a heat wave that is easier said than done, particularly if you don’t have air conditioning. Contact Rapid Cold today to upgrade your air conditioning for your family. Should you encounter someone having heat stroke, call 000 to get them to an emergency room for evaluation and treatment.

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