Happy 4th of July! In honor of our holiday, when we usually celebrate with hot weather, hot fireworks, and hot dogs, I'd like to post about none other than...hot people.
As a response to last week's post on hypothermia, a few questions came up from Terri Tiffany and Jai Joshi.
Terri's question: I've got a scene where a guy goes onto a hot attic in Florida to replace a fuse and becomes disoriented, sweaty, chilled and can't move much--am I close? I know people have died in attics here due to the extreme temps. I have him rescued and given water and cooling cloths.
Jai's question: How long does it generally take for the symptoms of heat stroke to show themselves. I know that in lots of people it's immediate but is it possible for the symptoms to not become obvious for an hour or two hours? Or that someone (another family member) might not notice the symptoms?
Heatstroke occur when the core body temperature exceeds 105°F because the body cannot eliminate excess heat through the usual ways--that is, sweating and dissipation of body heat into a cooler environment.
In heat exhaustion, the core body temp doesn't exceed 104°F.
Overheating occurs if the person is working too hard in hot environment (or also hot and humid--perspiration as a means of cooling off doesn't work if the humidity is >75%). It can also occur if a debilitated person (such as a frail, elderly person) can't remove themselves out of a hot environment. Another possibility is if a lack of hydration makes it harder for a person to sweat.
The initial symptoms of heat exhaustion can be nausea, vomiting, fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness. The skin may be cool and clammy, sweaty, and they may be very thirsty and feel faint or dizzy.
Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, flushed, dry skin, fast breathing, and a rapid pulse. They might have hallucinations, confusion, agitation, symptoms of stroke, inability to urinate (this is bad--a sign of kidney failure), seizures and coma.
Treatment is to get the person to a cooler environment and decrease the core body temperature. An excellent way (at home or in the hospital) is to mist the person with water and put a fan on them in a cool room. But if the patient appears to have more than just heat exhaustion, the hospital is a better place. Heat stroke holds a mortality rate of 21-63% because at sustained temperatures above 105°F, cellular processes in the body stop working properly and people can have multi-organ failure, including lung, kidney, liver, brain, etc.
So for Terri, the situation for your character sounds perfect for heat exhaustion, but the symptoms wouldn't include shivering (that is a bodily mechanism to increase heat, not decrease it). And they'd more likely be dizzy and weak rather than overtly confused. Using cooling cloths, misting with a fan, or a cool bath would also help, along with giving fluids to drink.
For Jai, if the person just had heat exhaustion, they might be able to get away with other people not noticing so much. But if they had heat stroke it would be very obvious--they'd be quite sick and disoriented. One thought would be if the person can't get to a cooler environment with adequate hydration--and their heat exhaustion turned into heat stroke.
Thanks for the questions guys! Keep it cool, everybody!
Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!
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