Jun 30, 2017

What is a Heat Stroke?

heat stroke

Heat stroke, or otherwise known as sun stroke, is a condition wherein the temperature of the human body elevates dramatically and causes serious injuries, including severe dehydration. It’s a medical emergency that demands immediate attention, for its consequences are fatal in nature. Experts claim that the body temperature of children rises 5 times quicker in comparison to the adults in the case of heat stroke.

Heat stroke is claimed as a condition that occurs as a progression from trivial heat related ailments such as heat syncope or fainting, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion. They are a result of persistent exposure to high temperature. The condition can also strike even if someone shows no signs of heat injury. Heat stroke typically causes damage to the brain, the heart and other internal organs of the body, at its later stage.

There are majorly two types of Heat Strokes:

  1. Classical non-exertional heat stroke: This is most common amid older people. The condition takes placed as a result of prolonged exposure to high room temperatures, especially during the peak summer months, with no means of air conditioning.
  2. Exertional heat stroke: This occurs as a result of a combination of high temperature of the surrounding environment and on-going physical activity. The internal system of the body loses its ability to regulate heat control. This form often affects youngsters, especially athletes who take part in enduring events.

Who is at Risk?

Most people do not recognize heat stroke as a severe illness. They take it as a mild condition that would pass away with the influx of time and do not take any precautionary measures. But, that’s not true. Heat stroke is a fatal ailment that demands immediate damage control. A major chunk of heat stroke cases are registered in the summer months. Below mentioned are people who are at a risk of suffering from heat stroke and need utmost care during the summer time:

  • Infants and kids
  • Elderly adults (Mostly those with diseases related to heart, lung, kidney, or who are taking medications that make them vulnerable to dehydration and heat stroke/ sun stroke)
  • Sports Person/Athletes
  • Individuals who work under the sun and are involved in physical activities
  • Pets left in cars

The illness can also affect people who don’t drink enough water, have a chronic disease or drink an excessive amount of alcohol.

Heat Stroke Symptoms

Heat stroke temperature can rise as high as 104°F. The most common symptoms of heat stroke witnessed by individuals are as follows:-

  • Altered state of mind wherein a person witnesses confusion, slurred speech, seizures, agitation, irritation, delirium, and coma.
  • Changes in sweating pattern. When heatstroke occurs as a result of staying long in hot weather, the skin starts to feel hot and dry to the touch. On the other hand, when heatstroke happens due to the result of strenuous exercise, the skin feels moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Experiencing a flushed skin, wherein the skin turns red in color due to an increase in the body’s temperature.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Racing heart rate in which the pulse of the heart significantly
  • Persistent headache with throbbing the head.

Heat stroke symptoms must not be ignored. For overlooking them can put a person in coma or even lead to his/her death.

Heat Stroke Causes

Heat stroke or sun stroke, as explained above, occurs when the human body is unable to cool itself and maintain a healthy temperature for the organs to function properly. Usually, the body cools itself by sweating, but at times it’s not enough. As a result of this, the body’s temperature continuously rises. Major Heat stroke causes are as follows:

  • Exposure to the Sun – Especially on hot days, between 11am and 3pm.
  • Hot and crowded conditions – People attending large events like concerts, dance parties or sports events during the day time, where the temperature of the space remains high due to the presence of tons of people.
  • Bushfires – Exposure to bushfires can cause rapid dehydration & heat-related illness. Heat Stroke causes bushfires which usually occur when the temperature is extremely high. This adds to the risk.
  • Excess intake of caffeine and alcohol: The two are known to cause severe dehydration, which further affects the body’s ability to regulate body temperature. While these are not usually considered as heat stroke causes, but an excess intake of alcohol and caffeine can increase body temperature significantly.
  • Lack of proper ventilation – Working in hot environments, or in poorly ventilated, confined areas.
  • Wearing wrong fabric: Wearing clothes that prevent sweat from evaporating easily & cooling down your body also aid to the condition of heat stroke.
  • Heat Stroke causes Dehydration – This is one of the major causes of heat stroke. To keep the body temperature normal, it’s necessary that it stays around 37°C. The body cools itself by sweating, which accounts for 70 to 80 % of the body’s heat loss. In the case of dehydration, the human body is unable to sweat, which in turn leads to sun stroke illness.

India is a nation that experiences quite hot summers. The temperature, as per the latest reports, goes as high as 50°C. People living in these parts of the nation are most exposed to the condition of heat stroke. Primary factors that lead to sun stroke in India are explained below:

primary factors

(Image Courtesy: Times of India)


Heat Stroke Treatment

Heat stroke treatment majorly focuses on keeping the body cool and maintaining its regular temperature. This helps in reducing the risk of suffering from fatal diseases and failure of major bodily organs. The condition of heat stroke is cent percent curable in nature and demands continuous care as well.

To present heat stroke, one must take up the following heat stroke treatment methods:-

  • Cold Water Bath: The best way to keep the body cool is by bathing in cold water. This is because the cold water helps in releasing the body’s heat and quickly lowers the temperature. It is known as one of the best and quickest heat stroke damage control methods.
  • Try ‘evaporation cooling’ techniques as a heat stroke treatment. The technique, today, is used by tons of doctors to treat heat stroke problem. It includes pouring cool water on the skin while warm air fans over the body. This causes the water to evaporate right away, resulting in cooling the skin.
  • Another way to treat heat stroke is by using ice packs and cooling blankets. Applying ice packs or wrapping the body in cooling blanket help in lowering the body’s temperature to a significant level.
  • In addition to these methods, physicians also recommend heat stroke treatment medications.

Though these heat stroke treatments are easy to perform, it’s best to consult a physician. For, sometimes unknowingly a person may trigger some other illness in the body which may turn fatal or even life threatening in nature.

Heat Stroke Prevention

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency that can be avoided by undertaking the following simple preventive measures. Heat stroke prevention means are as follows:-

  • Wear Light Colored Clothes: Wearing loose-fitted and light colored clothes is the best way to allow the skin to breathe and conduct its evaporation process.
  • Protection against Sunburn: Use sunscreen, sunglasses, wide beam hat, caps or umbrellas.
  • Avoid getting dehydrated: Drink plenty of fluids. Always carry a bottle of water when stepping out of the house.
  • Heat stroke prevention starts at home. Avoid excess intake of caffeine and alcoholic beverages.
  • Always Plan Ahead: Keep physical activity low & avoid exercising under the sun or in environs where there is not proper ventilation. Try to stay indoors or in the shade when the outdoor temperature is too high.
  • Stay cool: Draw the blinds or curtains and make use of a fan or air conditioning unit, if possible.
  • Eat frequent, but small meals: Eat small and cold meals such as salads as they help in keeping the body temperature in control.
  • Avoid leaving pets in hot outdoor conditions.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated.

Heat stroke is an underrated condition. But, its effects can be quite fatal. If in case a person experiences heat stroke symptoms, as mentioned above, must seek a physician’s assistance and opt for a heat stroke treatment.

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