Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke, can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. The condition is most common in the summer months.
Remember – Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.
- High body temperature: A core body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher, obtained with a rectal thermometer, is the main sign of heatstroke.
- Altered mental state or behavior: Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
- Alteration in sweating: In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel dry or slightly moist.
- Nausea and vomiting: You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
- Flushed skin: Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
- Rapid breathing: Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
- Racing heart rate: Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
- Your head may throb
If you notice signs of heat-related illness, lower your body temperature and prevent your condition from progressing to heatstroke. In a lesser heat emergency, such as heat cramps or heat exhaustion, the following steps may lower your body temperature
- Get to a shady or air-conditioned place. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, go someplace with air conditioning, such as the mall, movie theater or public library.
- Cool off with damp sheets and a fan. If you’re with someone who’s experiencing heat-related symptoms, cool the person by covering him or her with damp sheets or by spraying with cool water. Direct air onto the person with a fan.
- Take a cool shower or bath. If you’re outdoors and not near shelter, soaking in a cool pond or stream can help bring your temperature down.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Also, because you lose salt through sweating, you can replenish salt and water with some sports drinks. If your doctor has restricted your fluid or salt intake, check with him or her to see how much you should drink and whether you should replace salt.
Don’t drink sugary or alcoholic beverages to rehydrate. These drinks may interfere with your body’s ability to control your temperature. Also, very cold drinks can cause stomach cramps.