Heat safety | Knowing the difference between heat stroke and exhaustion

Heat safety | Knowing the difference between heat stroke and exhaustion
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 6:56 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - With a heat wave sweeping across the region this week, the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke is high.

If you are planning to go outside, especially for an extended period, it’s important to know the signs that your body is overheated and needs to get into air conditioning as soon as possible.

“Once you dry out and lose the ability to sweat and you start to go reach heat stroke stages, you could even have seizures,” said Shawn Marcum with Cabell County EMS.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are something Boyd County High School athletic trainer Tabatha Selvage watches very closely when temperatures climb into the 90s.

“Kids always think of themselves as the Energizer Bunny, they can just keep going and going. But as a parent, sometimes we have to put our foot down,” Selvage said.

She says parents should keep their children hydrated with water and Gatorade before practice, even making them hydrate the night before.

She says keeping cold towels handy is also important.

“If you need to cool somebody down rapidly, you can put it under their armpits and their groin area and that will cool them down quicker than just putting them in the shade by themselves,” Selvage said.

When kids are outside, she watches for dizziness, cramping, fatigue, rapid weak pulse, and excessive sweating.

“That kind of lets you know OK, this kid is entering into the heat exhaustion stage. We need to remove them from play and put them in the shade,” Selvage said.

She says when someone stops sweating, their temperature is above 103 degrees, the skin is hot to the touch, they have a rapid strong pulse along with a throbbing headache and nausea, heat stroke has set in.

“The body is made up of 70% water. When you get out into the sun for an extended period of time, you start losing that through sweat so once you go beyond sweat that’s when you start to get in real trouble,” Marcum said.

If you notice signs of heat stroke, Marcum says to call 911 immediately and try to cool the person down until the ambulance arrives.

“Start by sipping water don’t necessarily chug water. A lot of people will chug just a slow intake of water will help rehydrate you better than chugging a whole bunch of water at one time,” Marcum said.

Selvage says it’s also important to keep kids inside and out of the sun if they have outdoor activities later in the day, so they do not drain themselves.

Heat stroke can be very dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control says it can cause organ failure and even death.

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