Heatstroke is a dangerous condition where your body’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Without prompt medical treatment, heatstroke can lead to damage to the brain, other body organs or even death. Sunstroke is another term that is commonly used for heatstroke, but the two terms mean essentially the same thing.
Heatstroke is almost always caused by prolonged exposure to the heat. Your body’s natural cooling system, sweating, can’t keep up, and the body’s temperature begins to rise. It can occur on very hot and sunny days, often from prolonged exposure or when exercising or working strenuously without a break. In many cases, heatstroke begins as a condition called heat exhaustion, which progresses to heatstroke if left untreated.
Heatstroke will often first present itself as heat exhaustion, which includes lightheadedness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, heavy sweating, headache and possibly dark-colored urine to indicate dehydration. If it progresses to heatstroke, the symptoms become even more serious and severe. The body may actually stop sweating as the temperature rises to 104 and above. Symptoms such as confusion, headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting will grow worse. The skin will appear red and flushed, and rapid breathing and heartbeat can occur.
Prevention and Treatment
The best medicine against heat exhaustion and heat stroke is prevention. Avoid prolonged heat exposure or working hard outside on very hot days. If you do have to do it, take frequent breaks, wear light and loose clothing, and drink plenty of water or beverages with electrolytes. And if you think you or a loved one has heat exhaustion, get out of the heat and into a cool place immediately, rest, drink plenty of cold fluids and monitor the situation carefully.
If you suspect heatstroke, you should call for emergency help and follow the rules for heat exhaustion. Remove any unnecessary clothing, and also try applying ice packs to the back, neck, groins and armpits. This can help cool a person down and prevent the damage caused by heatstroke.
SOURCES: FamilyDoctor.org; American Academy of Pediatrics.