We’re Embarassed to Say We Didn’t Know the Severity of Heatstroke

Critical heatstroke begins at 40.5°C and the ideal human body temp range is 36.1-37.8°C.

NSW Health admits while the elderly, babies, young children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with chronic disease or acute illness need to be cautious, everyone needs to take care. Including those who work in hot environments and people who exercise vigorously in the heat — even if it’s part of your regular routine, and on a normal day you’d be fine, this might not be the case during extreme hot weather.

The thing is, when the weather is very hot — like the heatwave parts of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are currently experiencing — our bodies have to work harder to produce enough sweat to keep cool. Throw humid conditions into the mix and it becomes even harder to sweat, which can be a recipe for disaster.

Here’s how to spot and treat the heat-related illnesses you need to be aware of, as we swelter through our latest heatwave.

Dehydration

Mild to moderate dehydration forces the heart to work faster, which reduces the amount of fluid that the body needs to sweat.

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fainting
  • Irritability
  • Change in urine colour to bright or dark yellow

According to NSW Health, the best way to combat dehydration is to find a cool location, drink plenty of water, and avoid coffee, tea and alcohol.

Heat Exhaustion

When the body loses excessive amounts of water and salt through sweating its response is heat exhaustion.

  • Pale complexion
  • Heavy sweating
  • Cool and/or moist skin
  • Fast and weak pulse rate
  • Shallow and fast breathing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting

Failure to treat heat exhaustion can quickly escalate to heatstroke, which can be deadly! In a factsheet released by NSW Health, the best way to prevent this from happening is to lie down in a cool, preferably air-conditioned location and take small sips of cold water — if possible take a cold shower or bath. Apply cold packs to the back of the neck, groin area and under the armpits to help reduce the body’s heat faster. If symptoms are worsening it’s time to seek urgent medical advice, fast!

Heatstroke

According to NSW Health, heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the body’s temperature rises above 40.5°C.

  • Sudden rise in body temperature
  • Red, hot and dry skin (sweating has stopped)
  • Dry, swollen tongue
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Intense thirst
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Poor coordination or slurred speech
  • Aggressive or bizarre behaviour
  • Loss of consciousness, seizures or coma
  • Immediately call for an ambulance.
  • Get the person into the shade, lay them down, and keep them as still as possible.
  • If conscious, give them small sips of cool fluids
  • Put cool packs under armpits, on the groin, or on the back of the neck to reduce their body heat.
  • If unconscious, lay the person on their side and check they can breathe properly
  • If needed, perform CPR
  • Do not give them aspirin or paracetamol; they don’t help and could be harmful

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kathryna Hancock

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