As the summer days have begun to get longer and more people are flocking to the beach, spending more time in outdoor activities while the heat and temperature rises – so do the risk of having a heat stroke. This risk is even greater for the elderly and for those of us who have chronic illnesses like Parkinson’s disease due to autonomic dysfunction already present in most of us. Heat strokes remains one of the leading causes of preventable deaths and hospitalizations.
So, what is heat stroke ? according to the dictionary – this is an inability to regulate ones own body temperature when exposed to high temperatures resulting in very elevated fevers between 104-106 degrees Fahrenheit and unconsciousness and sometimes even death. This is not to be confused with heat exhaustion in which it reaches same tempetature but has cold, clammy drenching sweats. As opposed to hot, flushed, dry skin from absence of sweating seen in heat stroke victims. Both of these can occur in Parkinson’s patients causing not only severe discomfort but may result in passing out with subsequent trauma to head and body and possible hospitalizations.
People with heat strokes can also experience throbbing headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, rapid shallow breathing, increased heart rate which maybe strong or weak, and muscle cramps which can mimic symptoms or rather side effects of PD medications. Therefore, we must be extra cautious and be supervigilante particularly if these occur in context of being exposed to high temperatures or prolonged time out in the sun. especially since it seems that this summer is already proving to be a VERY hot one in places like Yuma already 120 degrees, in Texas in the 100’s in some places and summer officially began only 2 days ago!
The risk is increased with increasing age and PD stage. Also if you take medications like amantadine and other anticholinergics, or diuretics you are more likely to get dehydrated quicker and experience heat exhaustion first.
at the first sign of heat exhaustion make sure you : important to remember that onset to presentation could take days!!
-move to a cooler shaded / air-conditioned area
- begin hydrating with water and things like Gatorade and other sports drinks-avoid soft drinks and drinks which contain alcohol or caffeine. drink twice as much fluids as you would normally!
- use cooling blankets and fans/ cooling rags/ cooling vests/ cooling mist
- take cold showers or baths ( sometimes with ice)
- make sure you exercise early in the morning or indoors (indoor pool, walking, stationary bikes, tai-chi, boxing)
- wear sun protective clothing
- don’t stay out in the sun for long time and especially if you are on medicines that make you more sensitive to heat like Azilect (Mao inhibitors)
- don’t go out in heat if you are already experiencing excessive sweating
- make sure you eat foods rich in potassium like avocados, bananas and strawberries.
if you are already experiencing severe sweating from medications look at my other blog for treatments and causes; but make sure you try to get under control before summer really takes off.
tips: if your urine is getting dark – is a sign of being in trouble go to the doctor/ER because is a sign that muscle is beginning to break down….
if you don’t know how much fluid to drink after exercise- weight yourself before and after and the loss will tell you how much intake you need.
apply ice or cooling blankets to groin, arm pits, neck and back.
use cooling damp blankets for entire body.
if symptoms persist GO TO ER immediately!
stay cool every body and enjoy your SUMMER!
All rights reserved- Maria De Leon MD