Can hyperthermia be prevented?
The best way to avoid hyperthermia is to avoid its triggers, and recognise the risk factors or first signs of heat-related illness and treat these appropriately. Preventative measures are not necessarily a substitute for medical care, but can help to prevent an emergency situation.
Certain precautions can help to avoid serious phases of the condition and a potentially life-threatening situation. Measures of precaution if exposed to high heat temperatures include:
- Taking regular ‘cool-down’ breaks: Find shaded, cooler, air-conditioned or well-ventilated areas that are not crowded and provide a break from extreme heat conditions, especially during a heat wave. Alternatively, avoid doing strenuous activity, such as sports activities or hiking, during the warmest times of the day (especially in direct sunlight). Cooler baths or showers can also help to reduce body temperature, particularly on a hot temperature day. These are often more effective ways to cool down than simply using a fan.
- Keep hydrated: Replenish the body with frequent quantities of cool fluids (water or drinks which contain electrolytes). If climate conditions are extreme, fluid intake every 20 minutes (or two to four cups of fluids every hour) or so is advisable, especially if active in hot temperatures (the body will lose more fluids through perspiration). Fluids should be consumed frequently even if not all that physically active in hot conditions (this is especially recommended for seniors over 65). Alcohol and caffeinated beverages are not recommended as these fluids generally increase the risk of dehydration. Hot meals can also heat up the body’s core temperature and may be best avoided during particularly hot conditions.
- Wear lightweight clothing: Light coloured and lightweight clothing fabrics, that allow skin to breathe (such as cotton), are best worn on hot days, especially if spending time outdoors. Extra care should also be taken in keeping children and pets well hydrated too. Hats can also sometimes help one to stay cooler. If outdoors, take precaution and wear a good quality sunscreen. Sunburn can interfere with the body’s ability to cool down naturally and can lead to a loss of fluids (perspiration).
- Temperature controlled environments or spaces: Ensure that rooms and confined spaces are well ventilated. Fans, air conditioners and open windows that allow for better air flow (cross-ventilation is advisable) are best during a hot spell. Never leave a person (baby, child, adult or pet) in a closed, parked vehicle (car) as the air temperature inside can heat up quickly even if the outside air temperature is mild.
- Take precautions when exercising in hot conditions: The best advice is to start slowly and gradually pick up pace. This allows the body to better acclimatise to the conditions. Overexertion in hot climate conditions forces the heart to work harder and can affect the flow of breathing during exercise activity (i.e. gasping for breath and causing light-headedness). It is also advisable to time exercise activity to cooler times of the day, such as early morning or dusk (late afternoon / evening), opt for an activity such as swimming or use an air-conditioned facility, such as a gym.