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How to know you have heatstroke

Temperatures will be near 100 degrees for Memorial Day weekend

SAN ANTONIO – Temperatures are expected to be near 100 degrees over the Memorial Day weekend, and that spells danger for just about everyone who will be spending time outdoors.  

Doctors say if you know the warning signs of heatstroke, then you can survive it and perhaps even help someone who is in trouble.

"Usually heatstroke is when the body temperature rises above 104 degrees internal. At that range, it starts to shut down your internal organs, and really without getting emergency medical care, getting someone to a hospital quickly so they can be rapidly and effectively cooled off, they can suffer internal and sometimes irreversible organ damage," said Dr. Mark Muir, a University Hospital trauma surgeon.

Muir said there are many myths about who is at risk for heatstroke and why. 

He said it doesn't have to be the middle of summer, you don't have to be overdoing it outdoors and you can't rely on how your body reacted to heat in the past to determine your risk.

"We've seen it in patients who didn't suspect it at all. It can be just a moderately warm day, maybe they're doing a little bit more than they normally do," Muir said.  

He said anything that impacts your body function, from a common cold to a change of medication, and even how much water you have been drinking, can affect whether your risk has increased. Those who regularly work or play outside in the heat are not immune from heatstroke.

The first sign of heatstroke is when you stop sweating suddenly, and instead of your skin being moist and clammy, it becomes very hot, dry and red.  

Even if you notice that happening, Muir said the stress on the brain at this point may prevent you from getting the help you need.

"Most of that is due to the heat-related injury to the brain," Muir said. "As your brain stem starts to get so hot, it just doesn't function normally. It may be difficult to think clearly, it may be difficult to move. That's why it is so important to call someone, call for help, and most importantly, have someone get you to the hospital."

Following are typical symptoms of heatstroke: 

  • Body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Hot, red, dry or moist skin
  • Severe headache
  • Fatigue
  • Minimal or no sweating, despite the heat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Delirium
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

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