Head | General Practice | Heatstroke (Disease)


Heatstroke is the most severe of heat-related problems, after heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Heatstroke often results from exercise or heavy work in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake.

Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes.

Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but may include:

(1) Very high body temperature

(2) Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating)

(3) Dry swollen tongue

(4) Rapid pulse

(5) Throbbing headache

Causes and Risk factors

Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature rises above 40. 5C and the body’s internal systems start to shut down. Normally, sweating helps to maintain a healthy body temperature by increasing heat loss through evaporation. When a person becomes dehydrated, they do not sweat as much, their blood becomes concentrated and organ functioning is impaired.

Heat stroke may appear similar to heat exhaustion, but the skin may be dry with no sweating and the person’s mental condition worsens. They may stagger, appear confused, fit, collapse and become unconscious.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The risk of heatstroke can be reduced by observing precautions to avoid overheating and dehydration. Light, loose-fitting clothing will allow perspiration to evaporate and cool the body. Wide-brimmed hats in light colours keep the sun from warming the head and neck and block the powerful radiation from hurting the eyes; vents on a hat will allow perspiration to cool the head. Strenuous exercise should be avoided during daylight hours in hot weather; so should remaining in enclosed spaces (such as automobiles). The temperature inside cars can reach 200F (c. 93C) at the right exterior temperature, sunlight, color of vehicle, and type of vehicle. Temperatures that high without proper cooling could be dangerous and even fatal, especially with young children and pets. ...