Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke – What you need to know

Unknown-1Summer is in full swing in North America with temperatures in Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa Valley creeping into the 30’s. Add in the humidity and we are pushing past the ‘comfortable’ zone for many folks. While summer is a great time to be outside and get active we do have to be cautious that we don’t push our bodies past the point that they can keep us cool. Here are a few things to watch for to ensure we don’t end up suffering from heat cramps, heat exhaustion or, worst of all, heat stroke.

Prevention is key!

The best way to deal with heat related emergencies is to not get them in the first place (obvious I know). Be sure to wear proper clothing that allows good airflow to your skin, stay hydrated with water (or electrolyte drinks if you are sweating lots) keep physical activity within a comfortable range for you, and, if you notice any signs or symptoms of heat-related issues, GET OUT OF THE HEAT! Listen to your body and respect what it’s telling you.

What to look for

In the beginning stages of heat emergencies you might start to have muscle cramping, you are still sweating but generally feeling unwell. If not dealt with things will get worse. Headaches, nausea, and vomiting are huge red flags that you need to cool down. When things are really bad, sweating stops and usually heat stroke sufferers will have red, hot, dry skin. Irritable, bizarre behaviour. Rapid, shallow breathing. Seizures. If things get to this point you need to call EMS/911 and cool them down NOW! This can be fatal.

Deal with it Early

If we recognize the signs and symptoms early we can deal with them. We need to stop them from getting warmer and cool them down. Get them inside or in the shade and have them rest and drink fluids like water or electrolyte drinks. A cool cloth or cold pack on the back of the neck, inside the armpits or groin area or, if there is water nearby, a quick dip will cool them down. If you can’t cool them down in the early stages then consider it a life-threatening condition and they need to be cooled as quickly as you can (and EMS/911 needs to be called!). Even if you manage to cool them down and they ‘seem’ okay they need medical treatment. Our bodies don’t like a raise in core temperature and damage to organs may have occurred.

Keep in mind heat related emergencies can progress frighteningly quickly and it does’t have to be extreme temperatures outside either. A huge jump in temperature, medications, age (usually younger folks and older folks) and medical conditions all affect how well we adjust to the environment. So be a good friend and be on the lookout for any signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke and take the right action to give the best chance for the desired outcome.

In an Emergency a Cell Phone is a tool – not a solution!

imagesDriving along the 417 Highway you see a car several hundred meters ahead of you swerve suddenly and tumble violently into the ditch. You immediately recognize that this is an emergency and determine that it is safe for you to stop and offer help. You move well off the road and  pull out your cell phone to alert EMS/911. Help is on the way. But what next?

In the last several years cell phones have quickly integrated into the daily lives of the majority of Canadians. While they are a great tool to have during an emergency, allowing folks to alert EMS/911 very quickly, they do have limitations.

While coverage has improved, there are still many regions where it isn’t very reliable or calls frequently are dropped. This is why it’s so important to let the dispatch know your number and location. Land lines are usually much more dependable and they have the added bonus of being able to trace the call to an exact geographic location, which is not usually the case with cell phones (yet).

Cell phones can also give folks a false sense of safety. Just having a cell phone doesn’t actually make you any safer. If you are involved in an accident the cell phone can’t deal with cuts and scrapes, perform CPR or recognize when someone is having a diabetic emergency (though the Red Cross App does a great job of giving you information and steps to follow). You still need to act.

So keep your cell phone handy (like there was any chance of most of you giving them up anyway….) but remember your training, practice and action are what will truly deal with emergency situations.

It’s a lot more than just First Aid

imagesYears ago when I started working in the Outdoor Adventure industry I was the “First Aid Tech” at one of Canada’s largest Rafting operations. My job was to take care of, and document, any First Aid incidents that occurred. Most of injuries and illnesses I dealt with had nothing to do with rafting and were the usual cuts, scrapes and tweaks that happen throughout life. Many times when treating folks and doing up the paperwork I’d get asked “are you a paramedic”? They always seemed surprised when I told them that I was trained in Standard First Aid. Somehow they seemed to think that being trained in First Aid wasn’t really enough. You know the, ‘its just First Aid’ mentality. To be honest many folks that I teach feel that way too – at the beginning of a course.

The Red Cross defines First Aid as the immediate treatment you give an ill or injured person until more advanced care can be obtained. Now what would happen if you, and the world’s best surgeon, happened upon a motor vehicle accident? What would, or could, the Surgeon do any differently than you? They might have a much greater knowledge and understanding of a persons physical situation, the full impact of injuries before them, but ulitimately, they can do the same thing as you. A surgeon can’t do surgery on the side of the road. They basically have the same tools available to them that you will after taking a Standard First Aid course.

The point is – First Aid training is important. It helps saves lives. It teaches you how to deal with emergencies and make important decisions. To some it’s ‘just First Aid’ but to the people you help during an emergency it’s so much more.

What do I do if…..

images-1We live in a pretty dynamic place where an infinite number of things could go wrong. Every course I teach there are usually a few folks that start most of there sentences with “What do I do if…”. The ending of the sentence can be related to anything from car crashes, explosions, charging rhino’s or scary clowns (sometimes I blame Hollywood for putting some very unlikely ideas in our heads). So how do our First Aid courses cover how to deal with ever possible bad situation? We make you think!

Our Emergency and Standard First Aid courses are all about giving you a system and way of dealing with any situation with confidence. It’s a template that can be used across the endless variety of situations you might encounter. While it would be impossible (and a really long course) to go over ever thing that might ever happen, we give you the tools and knowledge to help out no matter what the situation. Many people are afraid that they won’t know what to do or that they will do something wrong. It’s a terrible feeling. Take a course and arm yourself with confidence so you won’t have to ask ‘What do I do if”. You’ll know.

First Aid Training for Real Life

First Aid Training for Real Life

While Jo-anne and I have been teaching First Aid programs for years now we’ve recently made the decision to become a Red Cross Training Partner and offer  courses under our own business (which is Ottawa Valley First Aid – the website you are currently on….). Sorting out all the details and ordering all the equipment is certainly a tedious task but also a very important one. We believe that training should be as close to ‘real life’ as possible which is why we made sure to order the best equipment to help reinforce that. Like our mannequins that not only look realistic but feel realistic so you’ll know if you are doing effective CPR or not.

We don’t want folks to come in and ‘go through the motions’. We don’t just tick the boxes and do what’s good enough for you to get your card. We actually want to prepare you for any situation you might encounter in the real world. While many workplaces or school programs require that card that shows you’ve taken a course, be sure that the place you train  arms you with the knowledge the card represents. Having the card is great, but the card doesn’t help someone in a true emergency. Check out our upcoming courses and prepare yourself today!

The Ottawa Valley’s Newest Red Cross Training Partner

GetAttachment.aspxAnd that’s how we are starting the new year! Ottawa Valley First Aid is up and running as a Red Cross Training Partner. Basically this means there will now be high quality and WSIB compliant Standard First Aid, Emergency First Aid, CPR (with AED) and Babysitting courses offered around the valley.

We are still crossing all the i’s and dotting the t’s so stay tuned for more updates, course listings and details. If you have any questions or are looking for a custom course check out the Contact page and get in touch so we can help you out.

Looking forward to helping out and getting folks in the know with all things First Aid and CPR!

Dan and Jo-anne Caldwell