One condition that is sometimes misdiagnosed is heat stroke. While it should be fairly obvious, the early signs are similar to anxiety attacks, heart attacks and other illnesses that may or may not need immediate care.
When someone is in a hot environment for a period of time, they begin to sweat. When the body can't cool itself fast enough or becomes dehydrated, it heats up. This can lead to heat stroke. It's particularly common for workers in hot environments in the summer months, and it's something to watch out for.
The signs of heat stroke are pretty clear. They include:
- A core temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Confusion, slurred speech, seizures or coma
- Changes in the way you're sweating, such as having hot, dry skin or slightly moist skin
- Reddened skin
- Fast breathing
- A racing heart
Looking at these symptoms, a few of them are also signs of other conditions. For example, headaches, slurred speech and feeling warm might be a sign of another illness, like influenza. What matters most is looking at what the person was doing and when they fell ill. If it's hot outside or they were participating in strenuous exercise, then it makes sense that they may be struggling with heat stroke.
What has to happen if someone is struggling with heat stroke?
911 should be called immediately, and all excess clothing needs to be removed. It's essential that their body is cooled rapidly by whatever means necessary, whether that means carefully placing them into a cool bath, misting their body with cold water and using a fan, placing wet towels on their armpits, groin, neck and head, or other methods.
Even if emergency cooling techniques are used, the person is still in danger and needs medical care. When the medical team arrives, they may begin an IV to replenish lost fluids and will continue to help cool the individual. Early cooling efforts may help them come around before the emergency team arrives, but treatment at a hospital is still essential.
Since heat stroke can mimic other conditions, it's smart if others remain at the scene to explain when the person fell ill or what they were doing when they began to feel unwell. This helps prevent the emergency team from having to diagnose the condition and saves precious time that can be used for treating the true cause of the person's emergency.