With temperatures in many areas of the United States and around the world reaching record-high levels, it is essential to take precautionary measures to stay safe.
Heat stroke, which is also known as sunstroke, is the most serious form of heat injury and is considered a medical emergency. If you suspect that someone has heat stroke, call 911 immediately and give first aid until paramedics arrive. Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs.
According to WebMD, heat stroke mainly affects people older than 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes. Heat stroke often occurs as a progression from milder heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), and heat exhaustion. But it can strike even if you have no previous signs of heat injury.
What Causes Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures—usually in combination with dehydration—which leads to failure of the body’s temperature control system. The medical definition of heat stroke is a core body temperature greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with complications involving the central nervous system that occur after exposure to high temperatures. Other common symptoms include nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation, and sometimes loss of consciousness or coma.
Heat stroke is most likely to affect older people who live in apartments or homes lacking air conditioning or proper airflow. Other high-risk groups include people of any age who don’t drink enough water, have chronic diseases, or who drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Infants and children up to age 4, and adults older than age 65, are particularly vulnerable because they adjust to heat more slowly than others.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
The hallmark symptom of heat stroke is a core body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and fainting is often the first sign. Other symptoms may include:
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot, and dry skin
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
Learn more about preventing heat stroke, risk factors associated with heat-related illness, and first aid for heat stroke.
Submitted by Donna Fields, Crawford & Company® communications manager, Corporate Communications