Wednesday, July 10, 2013

(Not) Fun in the Sun: Heat stroke and Exhaustion

As a college student, one of my part-time jobs was leading backcountry trips throughout California. (Shabby, I know :) We were required to hold an WFR certificate- Wilderness First Responder.
Built on front country protocols with backcountry ingenuity, we learned how to splint potential fractures and breaks with sticks, hiking poles or skis.. to improvise slings with t-shirts and many other MacGyver-eque techniques. It was kind of awesome. And intense. Even though I always felt a bit more prepared, I desperately hoped I wound never have to use my skills. I mean, it was great to know how to make a couple of skis and backpacks into a litter, but what could you really do? Not much but apply pressure, and get to the road. (And this was pre-cell phone days.)

When I started using homeopathy, I quickly realized how much some basic remedy knowledge and a homeopathic first-aid kit would have been a game-changer in the field. Pain? Got it. Hemmorhage? Got it. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke? Got it. Pair your first responder technical skills with a well-prescribed remedy and lives are saved and patient comfort and healing is in motion.

If you're a backpacker or avid outdoor enthusiast, then pay special attention to these first aid posts. This one inparticular can seriously save a life. Heat exhaustion possibly leading to heat stroke is nothing to mess around with or ignore. But also, if you are a mom or dad taking kids to the beach, or out on the boat, these conditions can sneak up on you.

Heat exhaustion
The pre-cursor to a heat stroke look for:

      •  heavy sweating
      • red face
      • disorientation, dizziness or vertigo
      • muscle cramping
      • headache
      • nausea
      • rapid, weak pulse 
At this stage, you can intervene and most likely avoid escalation of symptoms. Move the individual to a cool place, in the shade and start administering fluids slowly. Make sure they don't guzzle. Slow, easy sips will help to rehydrate. Also, fan and cool slowly by misting or applying cool applications. But watch for temperature swings- it is easy to go from overheated to chilled. 


Belladonna for a head that feels hot while the rest of the body may be cool. A pounding, throbbing headache especially one that comes on suddenly. Headache may also be restricted to the right side only. The patient may crave lemonade or ask for other sour drinks. Any movement is makes symptoms worse. Belladonna is the go-to remedy for suddeness, redness, and inflammation.

Carbo vegetabilis: fainting and exhaustion from heat. Collapse. Nausea and possibly a cold, clammy sweat. Diarrhea after prolonged exposure to sun and heat. Helps anyone recover after a significant loss of fluids ie; vomiting, sweating, or diarrhea. 

Cuprum metallicum: specific for muscle cramps after exertion and from heat exhaustion. Think of kids after pre-season practices or sports camps. Exhaustion and prostration may be evident as well. 

Gelsemium: weakness, dizziness, nausea, and exhaustion. Desire to close eyes and go to sleep. Face is flushed and there may be a headache, worse in the occiput (nape of neck/back of head). Gelsemium is also a prime flu remedy- chills, weakness, exhaustion. So if you see symptoms that make you think of that state, gelsemium may be a good choice.

Tip: Just copy these remedy indications onto a sticky or notepage and stick them in your kit. Don't worry about memorizing- just carry your kit with you and you'll have your notes for when you need them. 

Heat Stroke
This condition is serious as it can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and brain trauma due to the body's core temperature rising above 105. If appropriate measures are taken when symptoms of heat
exhaustion are seen, then it is unlikely that a heat stroke will occur. But in populations at risk- for example the very young or the elderly, it can be a sudden event. Of course, there are folks who have an underlying susceptibility as well and it just happens. Seek emergency care, but if you have a kit administering a remedy can help lessen the effects and speed recovery. 

Symptoms to look out for: 
  • sudden headache
  • dizziness, vertigo
  • absence of sweating
  • red, hot, dry skin
  • nausea and vomiting
  • disorientation, discombobulated behavior 
  • staggering
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness
Immediate response: 
Move the individual to a shady place and begin to fan and cool gently. You can mist or drip water over them. Submerging is OK if there is a shallow water option, but the water should be lukewarm. Too cold can send a person into shock. Hydrate slowly- in sips- with mild temperature water. Call 911. 


Aconite: sudden heatstroke, comes one with great intensity especially after falling asleep in the sun. Face is red, headache is sudden and throbbing. Pupils may be constricted, with photophobia- or aversion to light. 

Glonoinum: extreme intense headache- as if the top were to blow off. Face is red and flushed and you may even notice a throbbing of the carotid arteries. Headache is the key symptom, though it may be accompanied by vertigo and dizziness. Skin is hot, dry, and red. 

Natrum carbonicum:  can be used acutely for head stroke as well as the after effects- such as with head trauma. There is confusion and vertigo, severe headache, possibly recurring long after. Weakness from being in the sun. Natrum sulphuricum can also be used post heat stroke for 'never well since,' and is also indicated for head trauma. 

Veratrum album: nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea accompanied by extreme chills and cold, clammy sweat. Collapse. Restlessness. Manic behavior- as in raving or talking nonsense.

(Remedy indications adapted from Roger Morrison's Desktop Guide)

Dosing directions: 
For acute and potentially time sensitive conditions such as heat stroke, give two dose of 30c (2 pellets) within 10 or 15 minutes. If you don't see any response, give one more dose. If you still haven't seen any response, consider another remedy.

"Response" can mean everything from a total resolution of the condition, to a slight reversal of symptoms. If you only see a mild improvement, then continue to redose the remedy as needed. That is, give another dose if symptoms plateau or get worse. But if you are administering cooling measures as well as a remedy that the patient is responding to, it is unlikely you will see a reversal. So once you see some equilibrium established, the headache subside, temperature regulate then there is no need to continue giving the remedy. 

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