The dog days of summer are good for lazing by the pool but not so good for your long runs and weekend hikes. When temperatures and humidity levels soar, you’re at an increased risk of heat exhaustion or worse: heatstroke.
Heatstroke is a real danger in temperatures above 40 degrees, as several South Africans have already discovered. And it’s no joke. It occurs when your body temperature rises to such a degree that it can’t regulate itself. According to the Mayo Clinic, left untreated, it can damage your brain, liver, kidneys and muscles. Scary!
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If you spot any of these signs, find shade ASAP.
1/ You stop sweating
According to Dr Theunis Potgieter, head of the Emergency Clinic at Mediclinic Stellenbosch, if you suddenly stop working up a sweat in the heat, your body’s temperature regulatory system is starting to fail and it’s a major sign that heat exhaustion is on its way. Find shade and drink fluids — wine doesn’t count, sorry.
When things escalate? Your temperature will leave you feeling like you could fry an egg on your forehead. Your skin may flush red and your heart could start racing as your body tries to cool you down. That high body temp can shut down your key organs, too.
2/ Headaches and disorientation
These could be signs of heat exhaustion, which could progress to heatstroke, says Chitra Bodasing at ER24. If you feel them coming on, get out of the sun! You’ll start to feel really out it… like really out of it. Those changes are also major indicators that you’ve moved from heat exhaustion to a life-threatening heatstroke. By this point you won’t be conversing well or thinking clearly enough to step out of the heat and get the help you need.
3/ Nausea and vomiting
If you’re losing your lunch, things have already gone too far. Feeling queasy is one of the most common physical symptoms of heat exhaustion. But this and many other signs — like feeling fatigued and vomiting — can signal you’re on your way to having a heatstroke, too. Stop what you’re doing and seek medical assistance immediately.
The bottom line: Heat stroke is a serious threat this time of year — especially for active people who regularly push themselves while they’re out in the hot, thick air. Know the warning signs and take your workout inside when you need to. And if you spot someone who seems to be suffering from heatstroke, call a doctor, have them stop whatever activity they’re doing, and assist them in cooling off. Sit them in the shade, in front of a fan, or even spray them with a garden hose — heatstroke needs to be rapidly cooled, however you can.