What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency in which the body's heat-regulating mechanism breaks down and the body temperature rises rapidly to 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) or higher.
How does it occur?
Heat stroke occurs after exposure to a hot, humid environment, usually in unacclimatised people. It usually happens after long exposure to hot temperatures. It can also be caused by working in an extremely hot environment, a high fever associated with illness, or exercising too strenuously. Overdressing, overeating, and drinking alcohol may be the other contributing factors.
What are the symptoms?
Before heatstroke, the person suffers from heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are confusion, fatigue, heavy sweating, weakness, faintness and dark yellow or orange urine. When the body can no longer keep the temperature normal, heat exhaustion becomes heatstroke. Symptoms of heatstroke are body temperature over 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), hot and dry skin, absence of sweating, muscle cramps, flushing, shallow breathing and a rapid and weak pulse.
What is the treatment?
Emergency medical treatment is necessary. The patient should be transferred to a
hospital or medical center immediately. In the meantime, first aid is given as
- Move the person to a shady area and remove the person's clothing.
- Cover the person with a wet sheet, which must be kept wet.
- Fan the person with paper or an electric fan.
- Continue giving this first aid until the temperature drops to 101 degrees F
(38.5 degrees C), or until the body feels cool to the touch.
- Sips of water, fruit juice, or a soft drink should be given if the person is
How long do the effects last?
People with heatstroke may need to be admitted in a hospital. Depending on the
general health and age, the effects can last up to a day or two. Prevention of heatstroke
- Take time to get used to a new climate before being very active or staying
in the sun.
- Limit exposure to the hot sun, and wear a broad rimmed hat if working in
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing in hot weather.
- Avoid strenuous activity in hot or humid weather.
- Drink extra fluids when sweating, even in absence of thirst.