It’s hot outside, hovering in the 90s, with the heat index reaching into the triple digits today.
Last summer we did a Please Explain on heat stroke, and Dr. Susi Vassallo, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, discussed the causes and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion and suggested ways to stay cool and healthy during the summer’s hottest days. Listen to that interview here.
Some facts we learned during that conversation:
The heat index takes heat and humidity into consideration. When the humidity’s high, it becomes impossible for sweat to evaporate, so the body has a hard time cooling itself.
When we’re hot our blood vessels dilate to bring blood closer to the surface of the skin, which is why we become flushed in the heat.
The elderly are especially vulnerable. Their ability to cool is compromised because their heart, which needs to pump harder in order to move blood to the surface, is generally not as strong. Over the counter cold medications and prescription drugs such as blood pressure medication can aggravate the body’s ability to cool itself.
Dr. Vassallo explained that heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature reaches 106º and mental capacity is altered—there’s often confusion. She also said that “heat exhaustion is basically anything less than that.” The body temperature is normal or close to normal, but the person may feel hot, may be sweating, may collapse, may have stomach upset, or may vomit.
Dehydration happens when the body doesn’t have enough circulating water, and we lose more fluid—through sweating, usually—than we replenish. If you’re sweating a lot, especially if you’re exercising, you should drink plenty of fluids.
The Mayo Clinic’s Web site stresses that you have any of the signs or symptoms of heatstroke, seek medical help immediately. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that you should not try to treat at home.