Help for when the heat is on

The revelation that England cricket team captain Joe Root (along with many other people) suffered from heat stress thanks to the record temperatures felt in Sydney during the Ashes series is a timely reminder of Australia’s top natural killer this summer.

“Records going back 150 years show that heat stress accounts for the deaths of more Australians than floods, cyclones, bushfires and storms combined,”, Senior Flight Nurse at the Royal Flying Doctor Service Karen Barlow said. “If it can affect international cricketers with all their expert health and medical support, then we’re all vulnerable.”

Heat stress occurs once rising temperature outstrips the body’s ability to cool down adequately. Early signs include muscle cramps, dark coloured or reduced urine flow, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and fainting.

Heat cramps and fatigue are the first signs of a heat emergency, with muscle pain or tightness being common symptoms. Get the person to a cool place and give them water.

Heat faint is caused by a drop in blood pressure when body fluids shift to the skin in an effort to cool the body. Getting the victim into shade, giving them water and elevating their legs will help recovery.

Rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, dizziness and impaired mental function are common signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Immediate medical treatment is required. The instant reduction of core body temperature is vital because survival and avoiding internal organ damage is determined by the length of time the victim has been experiencing extreme heat stress.

Get the person to a cool area and lay them down, remove outer clothing to release body heat, apply cool water or ice to skin and main arteries under the arms, on the neck and groin, but be careful not to cool them down too quickly as that can have an adverse effect. Give them water if they are conscious.

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