Heat stroke is defined as a condition where the cooling mechanism of the body is overpowered by heat. This results to an elevated core temperature, usually 104 degrees F or higher among adults and 105 degrees F among children. The condition is accompanied by changes in the mental status. Remember that this heat-related illness is considered as a medical emergency.
Young children, elderly and pregnant women face a higher risk for heat stroke since their bodies do not cool as normally as adults without any health issues.
What are the causes?
The main cause of heat stroke is extended exposure to high temperatures and/or engaging in strenuous activity during warm weather. The ability of the body to regulate the core temperature is overwhelmed by heat.
Other potential contributing factors to heat stroke include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Side effects of certain drugs
- Using constricted or tight clothing
What are the signs of heat stroke?
Heat stroke typically follows other heat-related ailments such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Both conditions are characterized by muscle cramps followed by exhaustion and excessive sweating.
As these conditions progresses, other symptoms might include rapid pulse rate, rapid breathing, headache and dizziness.
These symptoms might linger and eventually progress to heat stroke once the body temperature reaches 104 degrees F and the body ceases to sweat.
Aside from the cessation of sweating, the skin is warm and dry and oftentimes reddish in appearance.
Stroke-like symptoms might also occur if an individual has heat stroke. Symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, confusion, organ damage, loss of consciousness, coma and even death can occur if not promptly treated.
The immediate treatment for heat stroke is to cool down the body. This is ideally carried out by spraying the individual with cool water or covering with damp sheets along with fans to increase evaporative cooling. Other cooling measures include placing an ice pack on the neck, head, armpits and groin.
Additionally, benzodiazepines can be given to prevent shivering. Oftentimes, if the individual is dehydrated, intravenous fluids are given. Take note that the objective is to restore the core temperature below 102.2 degrees F.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on heat stroke is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how to provide first aid care, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.