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Preventing Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can affect people of all ages from small children to the elderly. Though it can be deadly, it is also entirely preventable.

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, says CBS 2 reporter Paul Moniz, is failing to recognize the early warning signs and drinking enough fluids throughout the day. These two simple steps can be lifesavers.

Being active in sweltering heat strains the body's organs, depriving them of oxygen and fluid. Without replenishment, the body can break down much like an overheated car.

"If you don't stop the car, address the issue and refill the radiator the car will explode and then the car goes dead," says Dr. Robert Gotlin, head of orthopedic and sports rehabilitation at Beth Israel Hospital. He adds that heat illness affects the body's organs the same way, drying them out so they no longer function. That can lead to cardiac arrest.

Dr. Gotlin is also a dad and coach. He says too many people, especially young athletes, develop heat exhaustion, and later heat stroke, because coaches and players ignore the warning signs like dehydration and cloudy judgement.

"The person may be disoriented, not thinking clearly. They'll have nausea and maybe some vomiting. The person will have profuse sweating. Their skin is very clammy and they just don't look right."

15 year old Kari Evans knows the danger all too well. She suffered severe heat exhaustion after ignoring early warning signs.

"When I was dehydrated, I was really scared. I had a headache, I was lighted-headed, shaking. I was sick to my stomach," she said.

Kari was rushed to the hospital and given IV fluids. Children are particularly susceptible to heat illness because they have less surface area and get hot quicker. Those who are overweight, like Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer who died of heat stroke, are also at risk because their bodies have to work harder to keep their organs functioning.

The Centers for Disease Control says Stringer is one of more than 300 Americans who die every year from heat illness. Doctors warn that people of any age and condition are susceptible if they don't follow simple precautions:

-If you're active you should drink 4-8 oz of water or a sports drink every 15 minutes -- don't wait until you're thirsty.

-People with heart and respiratory conditions like asthma should follow the same drinking guidelines and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can worsen dehydration.

-People should also stay out of the sun, use an umbrella if necessary, and walk in the shade.

-Most important - seek emergency help if you feel nauseous, suffer excess sweating or experience confusion.

"The two most important things are to obtain fluid and to cool off the body," says Dr. Gotlin.

How do you tell the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke? In heat stroke a person stops sweating and develops red, hot skin anbody temperatures are above 103 degrees. At this point you must call 9-1-1 and start cooling the victim immediately. Get him in the shade, pour cool water on his head and wrap him in a cool wet sheet.
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