What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke

Heatstroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its own temperature, and body temperature continues to rise.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Unconsciousness for longer than a few seconds.
  • Confusion, severe restlessness, or anxiety.
  • Convulsion (seizure).
  • Symptoms of moderate to severe difficulty breathing.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Sweating that may be heavy or may have stopped.
  • Skin that may be red, hot, and dry, even in the armpits.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Classic heatstroke can develop without exertion when a person is exposed to a hot environment and the body is unable to cool itself effectively. In this type of heatstroke, the body's ability to sweat and transfer the heat to the environment is reduced. A person with heatstroke may stop sweating. Classic heatstroke may develop over several days. Babies, older adults, and people with chronic health problems have the greatest risk of this type of heatstroke.

Exertional heatstroke may develop when a person is working or exercising in a hot environment. A person with heatstroke from exertion may sweat profusely, but the body still produces more heat than it can lose. This causes the body's temperature to rise to high levels.

Both types of heatstroke cause severe dehydration and can cause body organs to stop functioning. Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency, requiring emergency medical treatment.

What are symptoms of heatstroke?

Signs of rapidly progressing heatstroke include:

  • Unconsciousness for longer than a few seconds.
  • Convulsion (seizure).
  • Signs of moderate to severe difficulty breathing.
  • A rectal temperature over 104 F (40 C) after exposure to a hot environment.
  • Confusion, severe restlessness, or anxiety.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Skin that may be red, hot, and dry, even in the armpits. (Sweating has stopped.)
  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea.

What types of clothing can help prevent injury from heatstroke?

Make good clothing choices in hot environments to help prevent heat-related illnesses. Clothing made of synthetic fabrics should be lightweight and draw sweat from the skin. The evaporation of sweat will decrease the body's temperature.

The upper body sweats more than the lower half, so wearing clothing that is loose-fitting and allows for more air circulation from the waist up is a good way to transfer heat away from the body.

We lose a lot of our body heat from our scalp and our face. Hats used for sun protection should be designed to allow for good ventilation of the body's heat from the head.

Giving emergency first aid for heatstroke

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Even with immediate treatment, it can be life-threatening or result in serious, long-term complications. After calling 911 or other emergency medical services, follow these first aid steps.

  • Cool the body.
    • Move the person into a cool place, out of direct sunlight.
    • Remove the person's unnecessary clothing, and place the person on their side to expose as much skin surface to the air as possible.
    • Cool the person's entire body in a cold water or ice bath or by sponging or spraying cold water, and fan the person to help lower the person's body temperature.
    • Apply ice packs over as much of the body as you can.
  • Check the person's rectal temperature.

    Try to reduce it to 102 °F (39 °C) or lower as soon as possible. The longer the body is at a high temperature, the more serious the illness and the more likely it is that complications will develop. Temperatures taken by mouth or in the ear are not accurate in this emergency situation

  • Watch for signs of rapidly progressing heatstroke.

    These include seizure, unconsciousness for longer than a few seconds, and moderate to severe difficulty breathing.

  • Start CPR if needed.

    If the person is unconscious or does not respond to your voice or touch, be ready to start CPR.

  • Give the person fluids for hydration.

    If the person is awake and alert enough to swallow, give them plenty of cool water to drink. You may have to help. Make sure the person is sitting up enough so that they don't choke. Most people with heatstroke have an altered level of consciousness and cannot safely be given fluids to drink.

Do not give aspirin or acetaminophen to reduce a high body temperature that can occur with heatstroke. These medicines may cause problems because of the body's response to heatstroke.

What is heatstroke?

High body temperature (heatstroke)

Heatstroke (high body temperature) is a condition that occurs when the body fails to control its own temperature and body temperature keeps rising. Symptoms of heatstroke include mental changes (such as confusion, delirium, or unconsciousness) and skin that is red, hot, and dry, even under the armpits.

Heatstroke can be deadly. It needs emergency medical treatment. It causes severe dehydration and can cause body organs to stop working.

There are two types of heatstroke.

Classic heatstroke.

This can happen even when a person isn't doing much, as long as it's hot and the body isn't able cool itself well enough by sweating. The person may even stop sweating. Classic heatstroke may develop over several days. Babies, older adults, and people who have chronic health problems have the greatest risk of this type of heatstroke.

Exertional heatstroke.

This may happen when a person is working or exercising in a hot place. The person may sweat a lot, but the body still makes more heat than it can lose. This causes temperature to rise to high levels.

Placement of Ice Bags for Heatstroke

How to cool a victim who has heatstroke

Place ice bags over as much of the body as you can. Ice packs against the neck, under the arms, and in the groin area, where large blood vessels lie close to the skin surface, will help quickly cool down a victim of heatstroke.

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