Super Hot Days Ain’t No Joke, Folks, Courtesy of Heat-Induced Illness

TL;DR

Pay attention to your body’s signals on hot days. Know the symptoms of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Estimated Reading Time: 4:09 minutes

My Serial Oops! Set the Stage for a Heat Stroke

A couple of summers ago, I sipped my coffee (mistake #1) while awaiting the arrival of a friend. We planned to visit a local nature facility for a prolonged photo shoot venture. It was early morning, about 7-ish, hours prior to my typical breakfast or brunch time (mistake #2) .

After she arrived, we jumped in my car, dropped the top (mistake #3) , and turned on Car Play. She wore a hat. I did not (mistake #4). About an hour later, we arrived at our destination. The sun beamed as did we, our standard state when surrounded by photogenic animals.

Two hours later, we boarded a tram. The heat proved too intense for additional walking. Within minutes, I blinked rapidly at wiggling trees, even though the day stayed immune to breezes. Then I felt a loss of balance as my environment dimmed. I found myself on the floor of that tram, surrounded by the liquid contents of my stomach. Soon, I saw the twirling red light of an ambulance. I’m told I passed out, then remained stubbornly oblivious to “wake up!” attempts. But the skilled EMS crew went into action, assisted by huge circular fans. After packing ice-filled towels around my neck and over my forehead, the EMS prepped for a ride to the emergency room. I refused, opting instead for a return home. I listened as one technician called a friend on the local police force: “I’ve told them to drive straight home, quickly.” Me, mentally: permission for my buddy to speed; cool! I didn’t fathom how deep I’d descended into a medical danger zone, until later.

Once home, hubby literally carried me from the passenger seat into the house. He placed me on the living room sofa, where I remained for three days. It took that long to feel myself regaining strength. Since that date, a case of Propel accompanies every purchase of a case of bottled water.

Apex Community Park, NC on a sunny breezy morning — with my insulated thermos of icy water in an insulated holder draped over my shoulder
Apex Community Park, NC on a sunny breezy morning — with my insulated thermos of icy water in an insulated holder draped over my shoulder

Hubs’ Singular Oops Sparks a Heat Exhaustion Episode

Speed forward to yesterday/Wednesday. Enjoying an off-work day, Hubs left the house briefly to satisfy our mutual craving for Dunkin Donuts coffee. Gone less than 10 minutes, his cheeks appeared flushed on his return. He seemed quiet, too quiet. 10 minutes later, he bolted toward the bathroom. Quick on his heels, I watched as clear fluid spewed from his mouth, expelled into the john. The episode triggered memory of the heat stroke, which included violent vomiting. I zoomed to the kitchen, filled a towel with ice, then raced back to the bathroom to drape it around his neck. Thankfully, he recovered within the hour.

A subsequent call to his doctor confirmed my heat-illness suspicion. You see, hubs takes blood pressure medicine, daily. I don’t know if its accurate to say the medication makes one more sensitive to heat. I do know it’s accurate to state the medicine requires one to be mindful of heat. He had driven his air-conditioned truck. But it took a few minutes for the chilled air to chase out the intense heat. We learned: that’s sufficient time for medication and heat to conspire, producing a ThrillaInMeKilla moment.

Hubs suffered a bout of “heat exhaustion,” mandating prompt cooling. The one thing good about my own heat stroke episode: I knew about the ice trick. That exhaustion can escalate into stroke territory which, in turn, can cause death in the absence of immediate curative measures. The one thing we now know for sure: one episode of heat exhaustion or heat stroke leaves you more susceptible to additional episodes.

We’ve learned the lesson. A heat index exceeding 90° auto-activates self-protective measures:

  • Is it really necessary to go out, now?
  • Don’t go out the door without a true meal in the belly.
  • Check your urine before departure. Dark coloring suggests a dehydrated state.
  • Guzzle cold water before touching the exit doorknob.
  • Grab an insulated thermos, filled with ice and Propel/ Gatorade. Sip generously while out and about.
  • If any hint of dizziness or nausea materializes, find an air-conditioned area, preferably with a fan, fast.
  • No running; no rushing. Instead, elevate the laid-back approach to an art form.

Our 30’s live only in the rear view mirror. Then, the closest either of us came to medicine was the rare Bufferin to tame a headache. These days, one prescribed pill or the other greets the rising sun, and dusk, every day. A constant medication stream translates into occasional body whackiness, activated by the most mundane scenarios. That includes Death-Valley style heat, if only for a few minutes. Quality, it seems, trumps quantity when it comes to heat.

Symptoms & Remedial Action re Excess Heat Exposure

✧︎︎︎ Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • pale skin
  • cool moist skin while in heat

● Water Depletion

  • weakness
  • headache
  • excessive thirst
  • fainting

● Salt Depletion

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • muscle cramps

● Required Remedial Action

  • stop everything; rest!
  • find a cooler location, pronto
  • drink cool liquids
  • loosen clothing
  • sip water

✧︎︎︎ Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • high body temperature (≥︎ 103°F)
  • throbbing headache
  • red, hot, dry skin (despite sweat-inducing heat)
  • fast heartbeat
  • shallow breathing
  • dizziness
  • feeling confused
  • fainting

● Required Remedial Action

  • call 911, immediately
  • move to a cooler place
  • apply cool cloths
  • do NOT drink

Sources

✧︎︎︎ Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions: Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke

✧︎︎︎ Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness (chart includes “What To Do”)

✧︎︎︎ WebMD: Heat Exhaustion: The Basics

✧︎︎︎ Life!

Call to Action

The sun gifts us with Vitamin D. It’s also been known to blow out the most carefully framed photo shot. Turns out, that same effect stands poised to inflict humans as well. Be careful; stay mindful; protect you and yours!

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