Watch for warning signs of heat stroke

As temperatures rise, keep your body cool
By: Tanya Roscorla, Journal Staff Writer
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While some consider the heat simply a nuisance and try to stay out of it, others have reactions as severe as heat stroke and risk death if their bodies stop regulating temperature. Heat stroke involves a central nervous system dysfunction that has similar symptoms to strokes, said Dr. Mark Vaughan of Auburn Medical Group, Inc. Most difficulties start when temperatures outside the body, or ambient temperatures, climb into the 100s, Vaughan said. "The problem is that the body's ability to get rid of heat is gone," Vaughan said. "All of a sudden you have nowhere for the heat to go and instead of getting rid of it, you're taking it in." The internal heat climbs to over 105 degrees and causes the endocrine system to have trouble sweating the warmth out, but the key indicator is symptoms of central nervous system problems, Vaughan said. Signs include irritability, bizarre behavior, paralysis of extremities, coordination difficulties and decreased mental alertness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and residents should be taken to the emergency room to be treated immediately, Vaughan said. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat syncope all have similar symptoms to heat stroke with the exception of central nervous system dysfunction. "When you have ambient temperatures greater than body temperature, the body really loses any ability to control its temperature," he said. Older residents and younger children are especially vulnerable to the medical emergency, along with those who have to work outside for lengthy periods of time, Vaughan said. At the Senior Center in Auburn Tuesday, eight men kept from melting in the heat by playing a round of pool. Newcastle resident Cedric O'Her said he was not worried about heat stroke because he is familiar with prevention methods and has shade trees in his yard. "I grew up with hot air, so I know to stay hydrated," O'Her said. Taking medication to regulate blood pressure, diabetes and other medical issues has Auburn resident Chuck Cooper keeping an eye on the way his body's working in the heat. He and others who have certain types of prescriptions are at an increased risk for heat stroke because of the way their medicine works, Vaughan said. Anti-psychotics affect the brain's temperature regulation center, and stimulants for attention deficit disorder or weight loss increase the body's metabolic rate. An increased metabolic rate causes the body's heat to increase. Cooper stays hydrated and keeps out of the heat as much as he can. He does not have to work because he is retired, so he generally lets the air conditioning do its job away from the sun, he said. "I drink lots of water anyway and I'm type 2 diabetes, so I try to watch out for the heat." Hydrating, staying in a cool place and decreasing physical activity can prevent heat stroke, Vaughan said. Tanya Roscorla can be reached at
Heat stroke prevention
  • Drink water

  • Avoid heat

  • Rest

  • Stick to the shade

  • Catch a breeze

  • Decrease physical activity

  • Soak in some air-conditioning

  • Source: Dr. Mark Vaughan