Heat stroke: causes, symptoms and treatment

Heat stroke is a disorder caused by excess heat in the body, generally as a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures or physical exertion in high temperatures. Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury and can occur if your body temperature reaches 104°F (40°C) or higher. This condition is more common in the summer months.

Heat stroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heat stroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing the risk of serious complications or death.


Heatstroke signs and symptoms include:

High body temperature. A core body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher, obtained with a rectal thermometer, is the main sign of heat stroke.
Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heat stroke.
Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel dry or slightly moist.
Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
Headache. Your head may throb.

When to see the doctor

If you think a person may be suffering from heat stroke, seek medical help immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency services number.

Take immediate steps to cool the affected person while they wait for emergency treatment.

Take the person into the shade or indoors.
Remove excess clothing.
Cool the person by any available means: place them in a cold tub or cool shower, spray them with a garden hose, sponge them with cool water, fan them while spraying them with cool water, or apply ice packs or cold, wet towels on the head, neck, armpits, and groin.

Each disease has one or several treatments to follow to combat it (Europa Press)


It’s often clear to doctors if you had heat stroke, but lab tests can confirm the diagnosis, rule out other causes for your symptoms, and assess for organ damage. These tests include the following:

rectal temperature to check your core body temperature. Rectal temperature is the most accurate way to determine your core body temperature, as it is more accurate than mouth and forehead temperatures.
A blood test to determine the concentration of sodium or potassium, as well as the content of gases in the blood to see if there was damage to the central nervous system.
a urinalysis to test the color of your urine because it is generally darker if you have a heat-related disorder and to check kidney function, which can be affected by heat stroke.
muscle function tests to determine if there is serious damage to the muscle tissues (rhabdomyolysis).
X-rays and other imaging tests to check for injuries to internal organs.


Treatment for heat stroke focuses on cooling the body to a normal temperature to prevent or reduce damage to the brain and vital organs. To do this, the doctor may take these steps:

Immerse yourself in cold water. It has been shown that the most effective way to reduce core body temperature quickly is to take a bath of cold or ice water. The faster they can submerge you in cold water, the less risk of death or organ damage.
Use evaporative cooling techniques. If submersion in cold water is not possible, healthcare workers may try to reduce your body temperature using an evaporative method. Cold water is vaporized while warm air is fanned over the body, causing the water to evaporate and cool the skin.
Wrap yourself in ice and cooling blankets. Another method is to wrap yourself in a special cooling blanket and apply ice packs to the groin, neck, back, and underarms to bring the temperature down.
Give you medicine to stop the chills. If treatments to lower body temperature give you chills, your doctor may give you a muscle relaxant, such as a benzodiazepine. Chills increase body temperature and make treatment less effective.

With information from Mayo Clinic


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