CPR First Aid

Knowing the Difference Between Heat Stroke and Regular Stroke

Knowing the Difference Between Heat Stroke and Regular Stroke

When people hear the word “stroke”, apart from swimming, it generally has a negative reaction to it. Whether it is a heat stroke or a regular stroke, the general population knows that it is a life-threatening condition that could prove fatal. 

With that said, it is important to make the distinction between the two. These two have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. 

The only thing that these two conditions share is that they could prove absolutely fatal if first aid is not provided. Understanding the difference between the two could help save a life one day. 

Without further ado, let’s delve into understanding the difference between heat stroke and regular stroke. 

What is a Regular Stroke?

Statistics

This is a cerebrovascular accident caused by the blockage of blood flow to the brain. This could be due to a clot or a rupture. When this happens, the oxygen-rich blood fails to reach certain parts of the brain, causing those cells to die. 

Statistics on strokes in Australia show that back in 2018, approximately 40,000 people went through a stroke. This means that each day, there were 100 strokes. Consequently, this also equates to around 50,000 people that may experience this each year.

Out of that number, one in six people will die. It is the third leading cause of death in the country and is also a major cause of disability.

Cause

The cause of this type of stroke is the blockage of blood flow to the brain. This is generally caused by things like plaque buildup and blood clots. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium, and other substances that could slowly build up in your arteries. Over time, this will harden and narrow your arteries, which is also known as atherosclerosis. 

When there is a sudden blockage due to a blood clot or rupture, that’s when this can occur. If the blockage isn’t removed quickly enough, it could lead to permanent damage or even death.

Symptoms

The symptoms can be divided into two categories: physical and mental.

Physical symptoms would be things like weakness on one side of the body, paralysis, loss of balance, and problems with vision.

Mental symptoms would encompass confusion, disorientation, and problems with speaking or understanding speech.

Other general symptoms include a sudden and severe headache that is often described as a “thunderclap headache”.

The best way to remember the physical symptoms is by using the acronym FAST:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911

Treatment

Ideally, you would want to seek medical attention for a stroke as quickly as possible. The faster you can get treatment, the better the chances are of survival and minimising damage.

There are two types of treatments for this type of stroke: thrombolytic therapy and endovascular procedures.

Thrombolytic therapy is used to break up clots that are causing the blockage. This is done by injecting medication through an IV.

Endovascular procedures are done when thrombolytic therapy isn’t possible or hasn’t worked. In this case, a surgeon will go in through an incision in your leg to reach the blockage. Once they reach it, they will either remove the clot or place a stent to open up the artery.

What is Heat Stroke?

Statistics

This condition is a type of non-fever illness that is caused by your body’s heat-regulating mechanisms failing. When this happens, your body temperature will continue to rise and can eventually lead to brain damage or even death.

In Australia, heat variety stroke is a serious problem during the summer months. From December to February, there is an average of 20 heat-related deaths each year.

A recent study showed that in an 11-year period between 2006 and 2017, there were over 35,000 deaths associated with this in Australia alone.

Cause

This usually occurs when you are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time. This could be due to heat waves, working in hot environments, or participating in strenuous physical activity in hot weather.

Other risk factors include dehydration, certain medications, and wearing too many layers of clothing.

Symptoms

The symptoms of this type of stroke can be divided into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe.

Mild symptoms would include things like thirst, sweating, lightheadedness, and muscle cramps.

Moderate symptoms would encompass nausea and vomiting, rapid breathing, and a pulse that is faster than normal.

Severe symptoms would be things like confusion, disorientation, seizures, and unconsciousness.

If you suspect that someone is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to call for medical help immediately as it can progress very quickly. 

Treatment

The treatment will vary depending on the severity of the symptoms.

For mild cases, the focus will be on cooling the person down as quickly as possible. This can be done by removing any excess clothing, moving them to a cooler environment, and applying cool towels or ice packs to their skin.

For moderate to severe cases though, emergency medical help will be necessary. The person will likely need to be hospitalised so that they can be closely monitored. IV fluids will also be given in order to replace any fluids that have been lost due to sweating.

In some cases, the person may also need medication to control their blood pressure or seizures.

Focus on Prevention

The best way to deal with both types of these strokes is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Preventing Regular Strokes

For regular strokes, this means managing any underlying health conditions that you have and knowing the signs and symptoms so that you can get treatment as quickly as possible.

First and foremost, diet is very important to anyone’s health. In the lens of regular strokes though, it can mean a world of difference. Eating a healthy diet and having an active lifestyle help largely in preventing this condition from ever happening.

At the same time, controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and any underlying medical conditions will go a long way as well.

Preventing Heat Stroke

For heat stroke, this means staying hydrated, taking breaks if you are in a hot environment, and avoiding strenuous activity in hot weather. Wear clothing that is loose and light to the touch.

Another way of preventing the heat from getting to you is by checking the local weather reports and seeing what the heat levels are like. Similarly, one can take their own temperatures. A body temperature of 40 C or higher may be an indication that things are getting a bit too hot for you..

Be Prepared When the Stroke Strikes

By following these tips, you can decrease your chances of suffering from either type of stroke.

If you or someone you know begins to experience any of these symptoms, it is important to call for medical help right away. It can progress very quickly and can be fatal if not treated promptly.

By knowing the difference between these two types of stroke, you can be better prepared to deal with either.

If you want to prepare even further though, learning about the right first aid practices will ensure that if you are ever put in a position where someone is experiencing a stroke, you can help.

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