What to do (and what not) when someone suffers from heat stroke

The World Health Organization (WHO) has already said it in the Atlas of Climate and Health , which it published jointly with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO): ” Heat waves that normally only registered once every 20 years could happen as average every two to five years in the middle of this century. ”

These days, Spain suffers the first of 2018 and already last year the WHO warned before the successive extreme increases in temperature that the heat “has caused more deaths in Europe in recent decades than any other extreme meteorological phenomenon.” These waves ” can contribute to heart and respiratory disease ” or lead to dehydration, dizziness, cramps, or heat stroke.

Accustomed as we are in Spain – one of the countries with the most hours of sunshine per year according to the latest report The healthiest cities in the world , prepared with official data by the search website Spotahome— to high temperatures in summer, many times We believe that common sense will guide us without fail if we are in the position of having to help someone who has suffered from heat stroke. And yes, the first thing you should do is call the emergency service; but a mistake in first aid can be fatal to the health of the affected person. Better follow these steps.

Some characteristic symptoms: red skin, low sweating, confusion or an upset stomach

The Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms: elevated body temperature, 40 ºC or more; mental or behavioral disturbances , such as confusion, speech problems, irritability, or delirium; less sweating; upset stomach, nausea and vomiting; reddened skin; accelerated breathing; fast pulse; and headache, even a pounding in the head.

People most at risk of heat stroke are children – “whose central nervous system is not fully developed” – and those over 65, when “it begins to deteriorate, making the body less capable of coping with body temperature changes . ”

Also people taking certain medications increase the risk for these heatstroke : “Those who constrict blood vessels (vasoconstrictor), which regulate blood pressure to the block adrenaline (beta – blockers), which cause the body to expel sodium and water (diuretics) or those that reduce psychiatric symptoms (antidepressants or antipsychotics). ”


And finally, “stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and illegal stimulants, such as amphetamines and cocaine” may also make you more vulnerable to high temperatures.

What to do: four steps

Enrique Ciria, head of the Prevention Unit of the Vithas Nuestra Señora de América Hospital , guides us in the steps that should be carried out quickly but keeping calm, since transmitting stress to the affected person could worsen their situation :

  1. Take the person to a cool place, in the shadeor indoors and lighten their clothes. Be careful not to remove her clothes while she is out in the sun, as clothes like the shirt can retain moisture that helps to slightly reduce body temperature.
  2. Call the emergencyservice .
  3. Refresh the skin: “Applying wet cloths or ice can help lower the temperature, it is even recommended, if possible, to bathe the person in cold water.” The Mayo Clinic specifies the critical areas on which to apply cold: head, neck, armpits and groin.
  4. If he is conscious, make him drink water.

What not to do

Beyond precautions — not practicing intense activity in the hottest hours of the day, not exposing yourself to the sun in the central hours, drinking enough water and avoiding fatty foods, very hot and with a high caloric load — there are three things that are not They must do before a heat stroke: offer exciting drinks, such as coffee or alcohol; keep the person in the sun; and remove clothing while still exposed to the heat source.


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