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Heat survival alert: heatstroke is no trivial matter

In the scorching heat of midsummer, nature tests every creature's limit in its own unique way. Recent news of heatstroke incidents has sparked widespread concern online, which once again sounds the alarm for summer heat prevention.

(Photo : Nanfang Daily)

1. Extreme Heat: The Invisible Summer Killer

During the summer, many regions in the Northern Hemisphere are subject to strong heat. With the trend of global warming, extreme heat weather has occurred frequently in recent years, which affects people's daily lives and brings great challenges to public health. High temperatures are not only uncomfortable, but also an invisible killer that can directly threaten lives. Against this backdrop, understanding heat stroke and its most serious type, thermoplegia, is crucial for everyone.

2. Heatstroke and Thermoplegia: From Mild Discomfort to Life-threatening Conditions

Heatstroke, simply put, results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, which causes an imbalance in the body's heat regulation mechanisms and disrupt the functions of the central nervous system. Sweating is the body's primary way to cool down. However, in a combination of conditions such as high temperature, humidity, and low wind speed, heat production increases while sweat evaporation efficiency decreases. This will limit the body's ability to cool down.

In addition, vulnerable people, including the elderly, infants, young children, people with chronic diseases, and outdoor workers are more likely to be at a high risk of heat stroke due to their weaker self-regulation ability or higher risk of exposure.

Heat stroke can be divided into several stages, ranging from premonitory heat stroke, mild heat stroke, to severe heat stroke (including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and thermoplegia) that can be fatal.

*Premonitory Heatstroke: Characterized by profuse sweating, thirst, cool and clammy skin, pale complexion, weakness in limbs, nausea, and lack of concentration.

*Mild Heatstroke: Symptoms intensify, accompanied by elevated body temperature, increased heart rate, and decreased blood pressure.

*Severe Heatstroke: Particularly in thermoplegia, body temperature can rapidly rise above 40°C, leading to confusion, convulsions, coma, and life-threatening conditions.

Thermoplegia, the most severe form of heat-related illness, is characterized by a rapid increase in body temperature, typically exceeding 40°C, and involves multi-organ damage (including the nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system, and blood system). Central nervous system dysfunction manifests as confusion, convulsions, or even coma. The mortality rate of thermoplegia is extremely high; immediate rescue measures are crucial once it occurs.

3. Golden Rules for Preventing Heatstroke

*Avoid outdoor activities during high-temperature hours, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

*Replenish water and electrolytes promptly, while avoiding beverages containing caffeine or alcohol.

*Wear breathable and light-colored clothing, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats, and use sunscreen cream.

*Use air conditioners or fans to keep indoor areas cool. Rest in shaded or cool areas whenever possible.

*Implement rotating work schedules for outdoor workers. Ensure that they wear protective gear, take regular breaks, and stay hydrated.

*Elderly individuals, children, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses are more susceptible to heatstroke. They require extra care and attention to prevent heat-related illnesses.

4. Emergency Response: Correct Steps After Heatstroke

*Move the person to a cool place immediately upon recognizing symptoms.

*Cool the body with cold water, especially in areas with major blood vessels like the neck, armpits, and inner thighs.

*Hydrate with clear water or electrolyte beverages in moderate amounts (avoid overhydration).

*Seek emergency medical attention promptly for severe heatstroke or suspected thermoplegia.

Author | Hannah

Editor | Nan, Monica, James

(With Medical Guidance from Dr. Zhang Rui, Director of Emergency Medicine Department, Guangzhou Red Cross Hospital.)

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