Heat Stroke - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Heatstroke, also known as sunstroke, is a condition in which your body overheats due to prolonged exposure to heat. It is an emergency condition that needs prompt medical treatment. Most commonly, it affects people over the age of 50, but it can affect young athletes.

 

Heatstroke, if left untreated, can damage your organs like the brain, kidneys, muscles, and heart due to excessive heat. It can start with muscle cramps, dizziness, and exhaustion. The later the patient gets treatment, the chances of organ damage increase. 


Symptoms 


The signs and symptoms of heatstroke are;


Raised body temperature- prolonged exposure to heat raises your body temperature to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If it rises more, it can cause organ damage. 


Changes in sweating- through sweating, your body cools down itself. But during heat stroke, it stops doing that, leaving your skin hot and dry upon touch. 

Flushing- due to excessive heat, your skin can become red. 


Rapid breathing- raised body temperature can make it difficult for you to breathe properly. 


Increased heart rate- excessive heat can stress your heart to work more and more, resulting in increased heart rate. 


Headache- heatstroke can cause a throbbing headache. 


Other symptoms heatstroke may cause are;


  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Confusion

  • Agitation

  • Slurred speech

  • Irritability

  • Delirium

  • Seizures 

  • Coma 


Causes 


Generally, heatstroke occurs due to two reasons.


Prolonged exposure to heat- long-term exposure to hot and humid weather, mostly on sunny days, can cause heatstroke. This kind of heatstroke is known as non-exertional or classic heatstroke. Mostly, it occurs in old aged people or the ones suffering from chronic illnesses. 


Strenuous heatstroke- it is the type of heatstroke that occurs due to physical activity in the hot weather. Mostly, it occurs if the person is not used to high temperatures. 


Other causes for heatstroke can be;


Wearing excessive and tight clothing in summers that do not let air pass through your clothes.


Drinking alcohol can alter your body temperature, eventually causing heatstroke.


Not drinking enough water can also provoke heat stroke as you may lose a lot of water content through sweating. 


Risk Factors


The risk factors for heatstroke can be;


  • Old age

  • Physical activity in hot and humid weather 

  • Getting exposed to hot weather suddenly, when you travel different places

  • Having a lack of air conditioning can turn the temperature cold and less humid. 

  • Taking drugs like beta-blockers, diuretic, antipsychotic, and antidepressant

  • Being obese 

  • Having lung and heart diseases


Complications 


Sunstroke can cause the following complications;

 

  • Organ damage 

  • Death


Prevention 


To prevent heatstroke, you can practice the following measures;


Wear clothes that are light and comfortable 

Wear sunscreen while going out on a sunny day 

Drink plenty of fluids, especially if you take diuretics

Do not sit in a parked car or let your child sit as it causes a rise of 20 degrees Fahrenheit even in 10 minutes.


Do not exercise on a hot sunny day, instead wait for the nighttime when the air becomes a bit cool. Also, drink plenty of water and replenish lost electrolytes. 


Conclusion 


Sunstroke, also known as heatstroke, is a condition in which your body overheats due to prolonged exposure to heat. It is an emergency condition that needs prompt medical treatment. Most commonly, it affects people over the age of 50, but it can affect young athletes. Heatstroke, if left untreated, can damage your organs like the brain, kidneys, muscles, and heart due to excessive heat. 


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