Heatstroke Prevention

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Injury Prevention Team

Heatstroke Prevention

Heatstroke Is 100% Preventable

Dealing with extreme heat is a major concern for athletes, diabetics and seniors. You and your children also are at greater risk and may not know it. The need for more education and more caution is clear when you consider every case of heatstroke can be prevented.

The key to saving lives is teaching kids, parents, seniors and caregivers of all ages what conditions to avoid, what symptoms to look for and how to react quickly. Reducing this type of health threat requires the involvement and support of our entire community.

Preventing Illness Is Part of Our Commitment

The trauma doctors, nurses and staff at University Hospital believe prevention is the most reliable cure for critical injuries. During the spring and summer months, we see heatstroke cases in our Level I trauma centers every week. Even one is too many.

The injury prevention experts at University Health are an extension of the Trauma Department. Our work is funded through community grants, corporate partnerships, individual gifts and by the larger hospital system. Our goal is to create a safer San Antonio by preventing adult and pediatric trauma. As heatstroke becomes more prevalent among groups within our community, we will continue to direct more of our resources toward it.

The decision to leave an infant or young child alone in a vehicle is extremely dangerous. Maybe you just need one item from the store or you’re just running in to grab carry-out. Maybe it’s quicker to step inside the bank to make a deposit. Too many tragedies start with an understandable but irreversible decision like one of these.

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. Leaving a child alone in a car can lead to serious injury or death from heatstroke. Even on a mild, 70-degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.

Our pediatric safety partner, Safe Kids Worldwide, developed a program to reduce the number of pediatric deaths from heatstroke. It’s called ACT:

  • A – Avoid leaving your child alone in a vehicle
  • C – Create drop-off reminders by putting an item in the back seat you will need at your final destination, such as your purse, briefcase or cell phone
  • T – Take immediate action if you see a child alone in a car

Take a minute to review these heatstroke safety tips and download the ACT fact sheet.

Never leave your child alone in a vehicle and teach kids not to play in cars. Make sure to lock your vehicle, including doors and trunk, when you’re not using it, and follow these precautions:
  • Keep keys and remote entry fobs out of children’s sight and reach.
  • Teach kids that trunks are not safe places to play or hide.
  • If your children are locked in a car, get them out as quickly as possible and dial 911 immediately.

High heat and humidity can affect medication, testing supplies and your general health if you have diabetes. To avoid the complications of heat-related illnesses, including heatstroke, it’s important to take good care of your diabetes medications and yourself.

Manage Your Medication

If you travel with insulin during hot weather, keep it out of direct sunlight and don’t leave it in your vehicle. You can use a cooler, but don't place your insulin directly on ice or frozen gel packs. Don't leave your insulin pump or other supplies in the sun, in your vehicle, near a pool or on the beach.

Manage Your Health

If you manage your diabetes, you are used to taking extra precautions to avoid dangerous situations. Take the same approach when the weather is warm and follow these guidelines:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, and don't wait until you’re thirsty
  • If your doctor has limited your liquid intake, ask for recommendations to stay hydrated
  • Wear sunscreen to avoid sunburns
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing
  • Exercise indoors, or outdoors closer to dawn or dusk

Just as infants are more vulnerable to heatstroke than healthy adults, seniors are, too. Your parent’s or grandparent’s body adjusts to heat more slowly than yours, and there are also generally more contributing factors for seniors, including:

  • Dehydration
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart, lung and kidney disease
  • Use of multiple medications
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Being substantially over- or underweight

Signs of Heat Illness & Taking Action

The National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH, provides a list of symptoms and illnesses prevalent among seniors once the weather turns warm. Respond quickly and appropriately to signs of heat illness, which include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale or clammy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

If you suspect your loved one is suffering from a heat-related illness take action immediately:

  • Get the person out of the heat and into a shady or air-conditioned spot immediately
  • If he or she can swallow safely, encourage them to sip water
  • Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits and/or groin, then have your loved one take a cool shower
  • If he or she vomits and it continues, seek medical attention immediately

Naturally, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you suspect heatstroke, call 911.

Athletes of all ages risk dehydration, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke when they don’t stay hydrated. It’s important to drink fluids before, during and after physical activity. Be sure to take regular water breaks every 15 to 20 minutes.

Respond quickly and appropriately to signs of heat illness including:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale or clammy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

The symptoms of dehydration can begin as muscle cramps and, over a short time, intensify to dizziness, nausea and even heatstroke. Additional signs and symptoms of a medical emergency:

  • Changes in mental status (confusion or combativeness)
  • Lack of sweating
  • Dry, flushed skin
  • Staggering
  • Loss of consciousness

Taking Action

If you suspect heat exhaustion or heatstroke, move to a cooler location, apply cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible and sip water. It’s also very important to seek medical attention quickly from a trainer or team doctor, or in an emergency room.