In Alabama, heat stroke is no joke! Expert weighs in on when you should call 911

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Heat Stroke
It’s best to seek shade in Alabama’s unforgiving heat. Photo via Madison Croxson for The Bama Buzz

Although summer is winding down for other parts of the country, true Alabamians know we’ve still got quite a few steamy months ahead of us. So, how can we stay cool and protect ourselves from heat stroke while temperatures continue to soar? We connected with an expert from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama to get all the details.

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Meet the Expert

Heat Stroke
Dr. Anne Schmidt gives us the low down on heat stroke. Photo via Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Brian DeMarco

Dr. Anne Schmidt, MD is the Senior Medical Director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. And she knows a thing or two about staying cool through Alabama summers.

She joined a Facebook live to help us all understand how to stay safe in Alabama’s severe heat.

Know the difference: overheating vs. heat stroke

Alabama Heat Stroke
Know when to call 911… Photo via Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

First things first, let’s make sure we all know how to identify overheating vs. heat stroke.

Signs of overheating include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Heavy breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Flushed face

When you see any of these signs, take action immediately. Stop what you are doing and head to an air-conditioned area. If that’s not possible, take shelter under some shade and apply cool, wet towels if available.

Although you’d probably be pretty thirsty at this point, Dr. Schmidt says it’s best to take only small sips of water. Otherwise, you might make yourself even sicker. It’s important to take action immediately when these signs present, to avoid escalation into heat stroke.

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Heat Stroke: When to call 911

Heat Stroke
You know the drill… stay hydrated and seek shade when possible. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Make no mistake, heat stroke is a medical emergency and should be treated as such. If overheating escalates to heat stroke, immediate medical attention is required.

Heat stroke often presents as the skin initially becoming cold and clammy (no longer sweating), then progressing to hot and dry. When you are no longer sweating, your body isn’t cooling itself down, meaning you need professional assistance ASAP.

Dr. Schmidt encourages Alabamians to seek professional assistance immediately, and not try to intervene on their own.

“Heat stroke is a medical emergency. So, if you see someone with the symptoms of heat stroke you want to call 911 as soon as possible… If someone is to the point of hot and dry skin, you don’t want to try to give them water or intervene much, other than having them rest in a cool spot and calling 911.”

— Dr. Anne Schmidt, MD, Senior Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

How to prevent heat stroke and overheating

Heat Stroke Alabama Outdoors Playing
Prevention is key, especially hydrating with water and electrolytes. Photo via Railroad Park Foundation, Nik Layman

Whether you’re tending to the yard, headed to the beach, or outside exercising, Dr. Schmidt says that prevention is key.

Her top tips for avoiding overheating in Alabama’s unforgiving weather are:

  • Spend time outside earlier in the day or late in the evening when possible
  • Drink plenty of water and hydrate as you go
  • Consider bringing a drink with electrolytes if exercising or exerting a lot of energy

And of course, with extreme heat comes extreme sun. To protect your skin, she recommends you:

  • Wear a high SPF sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays every day
  • Wear a hat
  • Wear lightweight, long sleeved shirts, especially if you are at the beach or pool getting lots of sun exposure

Stay safe out there, Alabama! Be sure to visit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s website for even more health and wellness tips.

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