Along with the heat wave, one of the most serious health risks is the “heatstroke“, a phenomenon of overheating of the body that can be fatal.
Faced with heat, which affects its functioning as soon as it exceeds 25 degrees Celsius, the human body activates several cooling mechanisms to stay at 37 degrees (perspiration, increased blood flow in most superficial vessels).
But sometimes that’s not enough and the internal thermostat turns bright red. It’s heat stroke. Under the effect of this hyperthermia, the heart rhythm is altered and accelerates sharply, as well as breathing and pulmonary ventilation. Despite the increase in internal temperature, the body manages to conserve as much water as possible, sweating stops and urine darkens or even disappears for several hours.
Symptoms to watch out for
In the multiple warning signs to take into account: fever over 40°C, extremely fast pulse, hot, red and dry skin, headaches, nausea and vomiting, altered consciousness (drowsiness or, conversely, confusion , irritability, even aggressiveness).
Heat stroke is much more serious than other accidents also caused by heat but without fever (heat cramps) or with moderate fever (heat stroke…). It can lead to blood clotting disorders that cause brain damage, coma, and even death without prompt medical treatment.
Some are more at risk
Young children, under five years of age, and the elderly, with less efficient defense mechanisms, are at greater risk.
Ill health, pre-existing diarrhea or fever, taking certain medications including tranquilizers and diuretics, or drinking alcohol (which dehydrates) increase the risk of heat stroke.
Pay attention to outdoor work and sports.
But healthy adults are not immune to such thermal failure. Especially if they work or play sports outdoors in scorching temperatures.
Intense or prolonged muscular exertion under the dodger exposes you to the risk of “exertional heat stroke” or “malignant exertional hyperthermia” by increasing the risk that your body temperature will exceed tolerable limits.
Behavioral anomalies are manifested: the person has a way of walking as if he were drunk, he is increasingly irritable. Subsequently, loss of consciousness or agitation with incoherent speech may appear.
In the event of a heat stroke with the associated signs of seriousness, the emergency services must be called. “If a person has hot, dry skin and is delirious, having seizures, or is unconscious, call a doctor or an ambulance immediately.”, recommends WHO Europe as part of its annual information campaign, called “Keep cool”.
While waiting for help, it is essential to cool down the body. Therefore, it is recommended to place the person in a cool place, remove superfluous clothing, sprinkle with cool water, ventilate, make small amounts drink unless he shows impaired consciousness. Ice cubes, or at least a cold cloth, placed at the level of the groin, or even the neck, can also help reduce temperature.
To avoid heat stroke or dehydration, the recommendations of the health authorities remain the same from one heat wave episode to another: drink water regularly, avoid alcohol and caffeine, stay cool, avoid going out and exertion physical in the hottest hours.