Treatment of Heat Strokes

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. This extremely dangerous condition occurs when an individual’s internal body temperature rises to 105*F or higher. Temperatures this extreme may cause severe, permanent damage to the brain and other internal organs. In extreme cases, heat stroke may lead to coma or even death. If heat stroke is suspected, it is absolutely crucial that emergency medical assistance is sought immediately. Even if a heat stroke victim appears to recover after his internal temperature has lowered, professional treatment must still be sought because long-lasting damage may occur even after only a short period.

Heat stroke is most often the result of being exposed to extremely high environmental temperatures. This may occur indoors in poorly ventilated rooms or outdoors on extremely hot days. The tell-tale sign of heat stroke is a body temperature of 105*F or greater. Since so few of us carry a thermometer in our day-to-day lives, other signs to look out for are loss of consciousness, dizziness, throbbing headache, inability to sweat despite high heat, skin that is red or hot, shallow breathing, and/or lack of coordination or confusion. If you notice somebody suffering signs of heat stroke, it is vital that an ambulance is called immediately. While waiting for an ambulance, there are some steps that can be taken that may help the heat stroke sufferer.

After calling for an ambulance, the heat stroke sufferer should be moved from the heat if possible. If the patient is in a non-air conditioned environment and can be moved to an area with air conditioning, this step should be taken. If the patient is in a building with no air conditioning, opening windows may create enough of a cross breeze to benefit the patient. If the patient is outdoors and there is no nearby building with air conditioning, the patient should be moved to a shaded area. Once there has been an attempt at controlling the environment the patient is in, other methods should be used at attempting to lower the body temperature of the patient while awaiting medical assistance. Some methods may include:

  • Fanning air over the patient while wetting skin

  • Placing the patient in a cool bath or shower

  • Wetting the patient’s skin with a garden hose

  • Applying cold pack to the patient’s armpits, neck, back, and groin

  • Placing a cool, wet towel on the patient’s head 

It cannot be stressed enough how dangerous this condition is. It is vital that a patient suffering heat stroke receive medical attention.


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