What is heat exhaustion?
As Roanoke and the New River Valley enter another week of hot temperatures and high humidity, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are dangers to avoid for both people and their pets. Heat exhaustion in people occurs after working or exercising in hot conditions, or after several days of exposure to heat (such as for someone without home air conditioning). When the body loses too much fluid from sweating, blood pressure decreases because the volume of blood in the body actually decreases. This process really messes up the body’s standard temperature regulation system, and the brain stops receiving all of the blood it needs, causing headache, nausea, and eventually collapse.
What is heat stroke?
If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can turn into a potentially deadly heat stroke. People with circulation problems, like those with diabetes or heart disease, are more prone to heat stroke. In addition to the symptoms for heat exhaustion, a person with heat stroke has a very high body temperature, and the skin often becomes flushed, hot, and dry.
How do I treat these conditions?
In the case of heat exhaustion, the best treatment is to drink plenty of fluids, replace the salt that was lost through sweating, and move the person to a cooler environment. Taking a cool shower can be very helpful to lower the body temperature, too. If heat exhaustion has progressed to heat stroke, this cool shower/bath should be given immediately. Such high temperature can cause brain damage or death, so 911 must be called as soon as possible.
What about pets?
Both cats and dogs can get heat stroke because they do not sweat, but dogs’ high activity levels tend to make them more susceptible. Dogs with short noses and large breeds are most likely to develop heat stroke. Symptoms include weakness, excessive panting, difficulty breathing, excessive salivation, decrease in mental awareness, and collapse. If you suspect heat stroke, it is best to stop the dog’s activity and get an immediate rectal temperature. A temperature over 103°F indicates a problem, and over 107°F can cause organ damage. Cool your dog with a cool (not cold) bath or rinse, and get to your vet or an emergency vet (Roanoke or Christiansburg) as soon as possible. (Most dogs with heat stroke will not drink water, so just concentrate on cooling them down and getting to a vet.)
Where to get out of the heat:
- Christiansburg Aquatic Center
- Regal Cinemas: Roanoke and Christiansburg
- Valley View Mall
- Tanglewood Mall
- New River Valley Mall
- PetSmart (Take your dog on a leash!)
As always, please talk to your doctor or veterinarian if you want to know more about heat stroke and its symptoms. If you are ever unsure whether what you are seeing/experiencing is heat stroke or not, please be safe and get immediate emergency help.