Heat stroke is a medical emergency caused due to extreme effects of heat on the body where the ability to regulate heat by the body is lost. The body is severely over heated and if left untreated can result in death within minutes. Heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke if not recognized and treated in time.
What are the Causes?
Heat stroke can happen to anyone but the most at risk are:
- The elderly (often associated with heart diseases, lung diseases, kidney diseases, or who are taking medications that make them vulnerable to dehydration and heat strokes)
- Workers exposed to high temperatures for long periods e.g miners
How to recognize?
Usually history of being exposed to hot temperatures is available. It can be recognize by:
- High body temperature >104 F or more
- Mental status changes – will be confused, disoriented, strange behavior and maybe agitated
- Increased and rapid pulse
- Difficulty in breathing
- Sweating may or may not be present
- Immediately move the person to the coolest area possible and switch on the cooling appliances eg. fan, air conditioners etc.
- Activate the emergency medical response.
- Ensure rapid cooling by pouring water directly over the victims body.
- Apply cold compress or ice pack (under arms, groin and neck area).
- Apply wet and cold towels or cloth to the whole body.
- When possible immerse the person in a cold water bath making sure the head is kept out of water.
- Check responsiveness and breathing.
- If conscious, give cold water or cold juices, sports drink or lemon juice with salt and sugar.
- If person becomes unconscious but is breathing put him in the recovery position to maintain an open airway.
- Heat stroke is a critical emergency and it is important to seek medical advice.
- Continue with all cooling measures while going to hospital.
- Be prepared to give CPR if the person stops breathing.
- DO NOT give any hot drinks or stimulants.
- DO NOT force person to drink.
- DO NOT give anything to eat or drink if the person becomes unconscious or is drowsy/semi conscious as he may choke.
Q1. Do all heat stroke victims die?
Ans: With early recognition and immediate cooling, there is 90 % chances of survival.
Q2. Why infants and children are at risk of developing a heat stroke?
Ans: In particular, infants or young children who are left unattended in a locked car may suffer heat-related illness quickly, since the indoor temperature of a locked car can rise to dangerous levels even in moderate weather. Rarely, infants have died of heat stroke when overly bundled in their cribs. It is critically important that parents understand leaving children unattended in cars can be risky.
Q3. Can heat stroke be prevented?
Ans: Yes! Heat stroke can prevented.
- Avoid becoming dehydrated and vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather
- If you have to perform physical activities in hot weather, drink plenty of fluids (such as water and sports drinks), but avoid alcohol, caffeine (including soft drinks and tea) which may lead to dehydration
- Your body will need replenishment of electrolytes (such as sodium) as well as fluids if you sweat excessively or perform vigorous activity in the sunlight for prolonged periods
- Take frequent breaks to hydrate yourself. Wear hats and lightcolored, light weight, loose clothes
- Keep cars locked when not in use and never leave infants or children unattended in a locked car
You can read more about other heat related emergencies in our blogs: