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Know the dangers of heat stroke

The human body can usually do a wonderful job of keeping itself cool thanks to the hypothalamus, a small portion of the brain that regulates numerous body functions. The hypothalamus responds to internal and external stimuli to do its best to keep the body at around 98.6 degrees. The most obvious heat defense is activating sweat glands that bring water to the surface, which cools the body as it evaporates. But if the heat is too intense or prolonged, the body can run out of fluids. As the body temperature rises, heat exhaustion occurs and can lead to heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening condition. Since it is difficult to tell when and if heat exhaustion will advance to heat stroke, it is important to treat both conditions promptly.

The CDC estimates that an average of 658 people die from heat illness every year, even though it is a preventable condition. The 1995 heat wave in Chicago claimed more than 600 lives over a period of nine days due to a variety of heat-related illnesses. Here are a few facts about heat stroke from Harvard Health.

What causes heat stroke? 
There are two types of heat stroke. Exertional heat stroke is usually brought on by intense physical activity in hot weather. News stories about athletes collapsing in the heat while exercising show that even someone in peak physical condition can suffer heat stroke. Korey Stringer of the Minnesota Vikings died in 2001 after practicing on a humid, hot day. His core body temperature had reached 108.8 degrees when he collapsed. People who work outdoors on hot days are also susceptible to heat stroke if proper steps are not taken to keep cool.

The second type of heat stroke is nonexertional heat stroke, which is brought on by weather that is simply too hot. This type of heat stroke usually affects young children, the elderly or people with chronic health conditions whose bodies are not able to handle high temperatures. In some cases, medication like beta blockers or diuretics can cause people to have an increased risk for heat stroke since these medications affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Alcoholic beverages can also increase the risk for heat stroke since the alcohol can dehydrate the body, so excessive drinking in the heat is not a good idea. It is important to note that on hot days the heart will beat faster to prompt the body to sweat, which causes stress to the cardiovascular system. Someone who has a heart condition might not be able to withstand this additional stress.

What are the signs of heat stroke?
The first signs of heat stroke are abdominal and muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache and a dizzy or weak feeling. There is usually intense sweating. If the sweating stops and the skin becomes dry, it is a danger sign for heat stroke. As the body temperature rises, other symptoms develop including strange behaviors, delusions, seizures or a coma. When the body temperature is very high, the body proteins and membranes around the cells, especially in the brain, begin to be destroyed or malfunction. The high heat can also damage organs and break down heart muscle.

How is heat stroke treated?
The important goal in treating heat stroke is to reduce the body temperature from the outside. The fastest way is to get out of the hot environment and into an air-conditioned area. If this is not possible, remove unneeded clothing, spray the person with cool water or blow cool air at the person. Do not force the person to drink liquids, administer pain relievers or salt tablets or apply rubbing alcohol to the skin. If the person continues to feel faint and confused, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Delaying treatment can lead to kidney or liver damage, congestive heart failure, coma and in some cases, death.

What are ways to avoid heat stroke?
To avoid heat stroke, stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Avoid drinking alcohol. If you are sweating, drink fruit juice or other sports drink to help replace salt that is lost. Move to an air-conditioned or cooler area when you begin to feel warm. Wear lightweight clothing with a loose weave so that air can reach your skin. Avoid strenuous activity between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when temperatures are high. Pace yourself and take breaks to cool down. It is also a good idea to wear sunscreen since a sunburn can reduce the body’s ability to cool itself. Once a person suffers heat stroke, the risk of having another heat stroke is increased, so be extra cautious if you have suffered a heat stroke in the past.

Getting the best care
After a serious medical event or illness, the body is stressed in many different ways during the time of recovery after hospitalization. The body’s ability to cool itself can be affected by illness or medications taken during these days of healing, especially during summer days when temperatures soar. To minimize unexpected medical complications like heat stroke, some people choose to recover in a short- term care facility where they can be assured that room temperatures are controlled and all therapy is carefully monitored.

Glenview Terrace can provide this safe level of comfort and care during recovery. Guests who choose Glenview Terrace for recovery will have access to board-certified medical directors and physicians from local hospitals to ensure continuity of care. Top therapists provide personalized, one-on-one physical, occupational, speech and respiratory therapies to help you quickly and thoroughly recover. A nurse practitioner is on-site to work directly with your physician to help quickly diagnose and manage your medical needs. Also, a rehabilitation nursing manager will guide your nursing team so you can reach the best possible outcome while the director of therapy oversees your therapy goals.

This period of recovery is set in elegantly appointed surroundings that are both cool and comfortable. Attractive rooms with deluxe walk-in showers, satellite television and daily housekeeping services provide a restful stay. Morning coffee and the newspaper are delivered to the rooms daily. An attentive concierge team is available to help fill special requests to make the stay as enjoyable as possible.

For a recovery that is both effective and elegant, make plans to recover at Glenview Terrace. For additional information or to arrange a tour, visit or call 847-729-9090.