Record heat raises risk of heatstroke

PULLMAN, Wash. - With temperatures shooting up to 110 degrees and smashing heat records in parts of Washington state. people are at increased risk of suffering from heatstroke -- the most serious of heat-related illnesses. 

"It's as if the body, like an oven, gets turned on to the highest possible setting. No longer able to regulate its core temperature, it begins to cook," said family physician Farion Williams, associate dean of clinical education at Washington State University's Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Tri-Cities campus. 

"Heatstroke is a medical emergency that can lead to confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness and damage to internal organs, including the brain," said Williams. "While young children and seniors are particularly vulnerable. it's also seen in otherwise healthy people of all ages."

Scorching weather has prompted the National Weather Service to issue an excessive heat warning across Washington's eastern half. 

To prevent heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses, "drink plenty of fluids, take breaks in the shade and wear loose, lightweight clothing," said Williams, adding that tight clothes lock in the hear, reducing the skin's ability to cool. 

People who work or exercise outside to try to schedule more strenuous activities for early morning or evening. Recognize signs of heat exhaustion, which, if not treated, can progress into life-threatening heatstroke. 

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness and nausea.

Threat the condition by resting in a cool, shady place and drinking plenty of water or other fluids -- not alcohol or caffeine. An ice pack or a cold, wet towel applied to armpits, the nape or groin area will also help lower body temperatures.  

If symptoms include an altered mental state, flushed skin and rapid breathing, suspect heatstroke. 

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