My Serial Oops! Set the Stage for a Heat Stroke
A few summers ago, I sipped my coffee (mistake #1) while awaiting the arrival of a fellow photography-obsessed nut. 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 when the heat proved too intense for additional walking. Within minutes, I blinked rapidly at wiggling trees, even though the day remained 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 stayed 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, EMS prepped for a ride to the emergency room. I refused, opting instead for a return home. I listened as one technician called his 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. The ensuing three days found me in the same location. It took that long to gain sufficient strength to confront the staircase.
Since that date, summer months coax my purchase of a case of Propel whenever I hit the grocery store.
Hubs’ Singular Oops Sparks a Heat Exhaustion Episode
Speed forward a year following my weird photo shoot excursion. 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 also 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 my 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 it’s accurate to say the medication makes one more sensitive to heat. I do know 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. 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.
Result, and this pains me to admit → my top-down driving transpires only during preDawn hours when the air is crisp and comparatively cool. If I’m near a beach, the top also drops during nighttime hours. In all instances, a baseball cap sits atop my head.
When I’m out on photo shoots, Propel fills my icy thermos. A baseball cap, if not on my head, rests in the camera bag slung over my shoulder.
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 ongoing medication was the rare Bufferin to tame a headache or chill-the-flu pills. These days, for hubs, 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.
As for yours truly, I continue to guzzle water throughout the day. It seems once the drink-more-water habit embeds, the body craves that now-regular water influx. Result: I’m always hydrated.
Symptoms & Remedial Action re Excess Heat Exposure
✧︎︎︎ Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
- pale skin
- cool moist skin while in heat
● Water Depletion
- excessive thirst
● Salt Depletion
- 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
- feeling confused
● Required Remedial Action
- call 911, immediately
- move to a cooler place
- apply cool cloths
- do NOT drink
✧︎︎︎ Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness (chart includes “What To Do”)
✧︎︎︎ WebMD: Heat Exhaustion: The Basics
Source: Emerson Hospital
Summer safety tips for avoiding heat stroke
In early stages, those who experience heat stroke may complain of muscle cramps, weakness, lethargy, nausea, or dizziness. Others may notice flushing, rapid breathing, confusion, agitation or trouble walking. If untreated, heat stroke can lead to passing out, seizures and coma.
Source: Medical News Today
Heat stroke vs. heat exhaustion: Differences and treatment
Source: University Health News
Avoid Heatstroke This Summer
Source: One Medical
How to stay healthy in the heat
heat-related illnesses can happen just about anywhere and to anyone. In some cases, spending too much time in high temperatures (hot yoga anyone?) or exercising excessively can trigger heat exhaustion. In more severe cases, overexertion and high temperatures can cause a serious and life-threatening condition known as heat stroke.