Heat Stroke

Symptoms and Treatment


Heat stroke is the form of heat injury; it is a medical emergency, also known as sunstroke.

Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs.

Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, usually in combination with dehydration, which leads to failure of the body’s temperature control system.

Medical definition of heatstroke

The medical definition of heatstroke is a core body temperature greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with complications involving the central nervous system that occur after exposure to high temperatures.

Scientific definition

Heat stroke is related to the heat index, which is a measurement of how hot you feel when the effects of relative humidity and air temperature are combined. A relative humidity of 60% or more hampers sweat evaporation, which hinders your body’s ability to cool itself.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Fainting, Throbbing headache, Dizziness and Lack of sweating despite the heat, Red, hot, and dry skin, Muscle weakness or cramps, Nausea and vomiting, Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak, Rapid, shallow breathing, Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering, Seizures, Unconsciousness, Coma


First Aid for Heat Stroke

Move the person to an air-conditioned environment or at least a cool, shady area, and remove any unnecessary clothing.

If possible, take the person’s core body temperature and initiate first aid to cool it to 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cooling strategies

Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose

Apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.

Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.

Risk Factors for Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is most likely to affect older people who live in apartments or homes lacking air conditioning or good airflow. Other high-risk groups include people of any age who don’t drink enough water, have chronic diseases, or who drink excessive amounts of alcohol.


Infants and children up to age 4 and adults over age 65.

Health conditions

These include heart, lung, or kidney disease, obesity or underweight, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental illness, sickle cell trait, alcoholism, sunburn, and any conditions that cause fever.


These include antihistamines, diet pills, diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, stimulants, seizure medications (anticoagulants), heart and blood pressure medications such as beta-blockers and vasoconstriction, and medications for psychiatric illnesses such as antidepressants and anti psychotics. Illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine also are associated with increased risk of heat stroke.

Preventing Heat Stroke

Stay in an air-conditioned environment. If you must go outdoors, you can prevent heat stroke by taking these steps:

Preventing Steps

  1. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.
  2. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor.
  3. Drink extra fluids. To prevent dehydration, it’s generally recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water.
  4. Take additional precautions when exercising or working outdoors.
  5. Monitoring the color of your urine. Darker urine is a sign of dehydration.
  6. Measuring your weight before and after physical activity. Monitoring lost water weight can help you determine how much fluid you need to drink.
  7. Avoid fluids containing caffeine or alcohol, because both substances can make you lose more fluids and worsen heat-related illness.
  8. Check with your doctor before increasing liquid intake if you have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention.
  9. If you live in an apartment or house without fans or air conditioning, try to spend at least two hours each day, preferably during the hottest part of the day, in an air-conditioned environment.
  10. At home, draw your curtains, shades, or blinds during the hottest part of the day, and open windows at night on two sides of your building to create cross-ventilation.

After recovery from heat stroke

After you’ve recovered from heat stroke, you’ll probably be more sensitive to high temperatures during the following week. So it’s best to avoid hot weather and heavy exercise until your doctor tells you that it’s safe to resume your normal activities.

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