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Heat stroke is a real and deadly condition that is common during the summer months, particularly when people are engaged in outdoor activities. Dehydration is the major precipitant due to inadequate fluid intake to compensate for heat losing mechanisms of the body, including sweating and peripheral vasodilation (dilation of blood vessels near the skin). The body struggles when there is concomitant humidity, but by the time a person feels thirsty, they are already dehydrated. Therefore it is important to frequently drink water on warm days and drink more if there is exercise involved. 2-4 cups of water per hour is a good aim. Caffeine in coffee and other beverages, and alcohol increases the rate at which water is lost from the body, and should be avoided. Midday, when heat is at its peak should be avoided, particularly when participating in sport, and sports drinks assist the body with retaining electrolytes. Heat stroke begins with muscle cramping and weakness, followed by heat exhaustion which is characterized by a slight fever with confusion, nausea and anxiety. The final stage of heat stroke involves a high temperature, sweating stops, delirium and coma can pursue. Treatment for the early stages includes removing the person from heat, cooling them down, giving cool fluids and applying cold towels to aid recovery. Later stages require rapid cooling and intravenous fluids. Children and the elderly are more susceptible to the affects of heat, as are people with sunburn, tiredness, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, obesity, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes and respiratory tract infections.
Source: summary of medical news story as reported by Penn State Live
About: Heat, a real killer
Date: 29 June 2005
Source: Penn State Live
Author: John Messmer
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