Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Summer is the favorite season of many, many people. The days are longer and brighter, everything is green and beautiful, and it’s so wonderfully warm. Many of us have an instinctual desire to be outside, enjoying the warmth for as long as possible before the weather starts to grow cold again. Unfortunately, summer heat is an excellent example of it being possible to get too much of a good thing. If a person is exposed to such high temperatures that his own body temperature raises to a dangerous level, that person is experiencing a medical emergency known as heat stroke.

Heat stroke can affect people of any age or gender, though it is most common in people over the age of 50. This condition is so dangerous on account of how quickly and severely heat stroke can damage the brain and/or other internal organs. The telltale sign of this condition is an internal body temperature of 105*F or higher. The first sign of heat stroke is often fainting, though other symptoms may include:

  • Throbbing headache

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

  • Feeling very hot, but failing to sweat

  • Dry, hot, red skin

  • Muscle cramps or weakness

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Increased pulse rate

  • Rapid or shallow breathing

  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Staggering or stumbling

  • Seizures 

Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may lead to severe, permanent damage to the brain or other internal organs. It may even lead to death. If you suspect somebody is suffering heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Delaying medical attention may prove fatal. While waiting for the ambulance, there are actions that can be taken that may benefit the heat stroke sufferer. Beginning to lower the body temperature may help prevent long-lasting damage. Move the person to a cool area, preferably indoors to an air conditioned area. If this is not available, at least move the patient to a cool, shaded area. Then take action to lower the patient’s body temperature. Fan cool air over the patient while wetting his skin with a sponge or even spray from a garden hose. Apply cold packs to the patient, focusing on his armpits, back, neck, and groin. Even if you successfully cool the patient and he appears to recover and return to normal, medical attention is still crucial to assess and treat any non-visible damage.


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