Summertime in the Ozarks is a season of fun in the sun for many, but the bittersweet truth about our celestial life-light reveals hidden dangers.
Heatstroke is the most severe of the heat-related problems, often resulting from exercise or heavy work in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Hyperthermia, the medical term for heatstroke, is the opposite of hypothermia where the body loses its ability to metabolize heat faster than it loses it. Some may confuse hyperthermia with fever but there are key differences.
A fever occurs when the body sets the core temperature to a higher temperature through deliberate internal action. For example, in response to an infection, the body will raise its temperature to allow the immune system to work better and make the environment for invaders less hospitable.
In contrast, hyperthermia occurs when the body temperature is raised without the consent of the heat control centers.
The main sign of heatstroke is a strong elevation in body temperature, generally exceeding 104 degrees fahrenheit. With this body temperature comes changes in mental activity spanning from small personality changes to disorientation and coma.
Other signs and symptoms may include: rapid heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, elevated or lowered blood pressure, cessation of sweating, irritability, confusion or unconsciousness, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, headache, nausea, fainting, which may be the first sign in older adults, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Prevention is the best way to combat heatstroke, according to the Arkansas Medical Association.
Prevention tips include: stay indoors in air-conditioned areas when possible. Drink plenty of water before starting an outdoor activity. Drink extra water all day. Drink less tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages, which can lead to dehydration.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Schedule vigorous outdoor activities for cooler times of the day. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat or using an umbrella. Increase the time you spend in daily outdoor activities slowly and gradually. Don't spend time outdoors during the hottest hours of the day.
During an outdoor activity, take frequent breaks and drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if not thirsty.
If a chronic medical problem exists, contact a doctor about drinking extra fluids and also about any medication.
According to the National Weather Service, if the proper preventative steps were not taken and heatstroke is suspected there are steps to be taken.
Move the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space. Dial 9-1-1 or call for emergency medical assistance. Cool the person by covering him or her with damp sheets or by spraying with cool water. Direct air onto the person with a fan or newspaper. Have the person drink cool water if he or she is able.
1980 brought a nationwide heat wave that caused the deaths of 153 Arkansans in that year alone.
The 1995 heat wave in the Midwest contributed to the 716 heat-related deaths in the U.S. according to authorities.
More than half of the 700 heat-related deaths in the 1995 Chicago heat wave could have been prevented with an air conditioner in the home, according to a published study. Experts say fans may not protect against heat illness during intense heat waves, according to the Arkansas Health Department.