As a parent, enjoying the outdoors with your family means being conscious of sensible safety precautions. Some of these safety measures are constant, like needing to have first aid supplies and letting someone know where you will be going. Some safety measures are seasonal like needing insect repellent and sunblock. See our previous article for what to pack for a summer day hike. This week we’ll look at signs of heat stroke, how to prevent it, and what to do if a family member shows symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
The first symptoms that would show up are for a milder condition called heat exhaustion. These are; fainting or dizziness, nausea or vomiting, clammy skin, rapid heart rate, and muscle cramps. These signs should be taken seriously as the condition can worsen quickly to the much more serious heat stroke. Anyone experiencing signs of heat exhaustion should seek shade or air conditioning. Drink water. Take a cool shower if possible. Monitor the person’s temperature. Internal body temperature of 103 degrees F is a sign of heat stroke. The other signs that the condition has progressed are throbbing headache, ceasing to sweat, nausea or vomiting, rapid strong pulse, and loss of consciousness. These symptoms require immediate medical attention! Use cool compresses until help arrives. If the person is still conscious, they should continue to drink water.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
These signs all sound pretty scary. And none of us wants to see a loved one suffer. The best way to fight heat exhaustion and heat stroke are to prevent them in the first place. Stay properly hydrated and protected from the sun. Use your sunscreen, wear hats and other protective clothing, and bring enough water with you for the duration of your hike or bike ride. Consider the temperature and heat index and whether or not there is any shade along your route. Here are some helpful guidelines from the National Weather Service for potential risks after prolonged exposure and/or physical activity:
Caution: 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, fatigue possible
Extreme caution: 90 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, heat stroke, heat cramps, or heat exhaustion possible
Danger: 103 to 124 degrees Fahrenheit, heat cramps or heat exhaustion likely, and heat stroke possible
Extreme danger: 125 degrees or higher, heatstroke highly likely
If it’s just too hot for a long hike or ride, consider another activity for the day. Go for a swim or take a walk in the woods where there is plenty of shade. We all love getting out on the trails. Let’s exercise caution this summer as we enjoy the sun and heat. Lucky for us, we rarely get to the temps that the NWS calls “danger” and “extreme danger”.
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