Heatstroke, also known as sunstroke, is a severe heat related illness characterised by a body temperature above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) combined with neurological dysfunction. It is considered a medical emergency and can be life threatening if not promptly treated.
Heat stroke typically occurs when the body’s temperature regulation system becomes overwhelmed due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures or strenuous physical activity in hot environments.
The primary cause of heatstroke is prolonged exposure to excessive heat, which can occur due to factors such as extreme weather conditions, overexertion, inadequate hydration, or prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. The body’s natural cooling mechanisms, such as sweating, may fail to effectively regulate body temperature, leading to a rapid increase in core body temperature.
Symptoms of heatstroke may include:-
- High body temperature (above 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Altered mental state or behaviour, such as confusion, agitation, irritability, or disorientation
- Hot and dry skin (in some cases, the skin may be moist)
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle cramps or weakness
- Seizures or loss of consciousness (in severe cases)
If you suspect someone is experiencing heat stroke, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention, take the following steps:
- Move the person to a shaded or cool area.
- Remove excess clothing and attempt to cool the person by fanning them or applying cool water to their skin.
- Encourage them to drink cool fluids if they are conscious and able to swallow.
- Do not give them alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, as these can worsen dehydration.
- Do not use ice packs or cold water immersion if the person’s body temperature is extremely high, as it may cause shivering and constrict blood vessels, hindering heat dissipation.
Prevention is key in avoiding heatstroke. It is important to stay hydrated, especially during hot weather or when engaging in physical activities. Wearing loose-fitting and lightweight clothing, taking frequent breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas, and avoiding strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day can also help prevent heat stroke. Talk to Gytree’s Nutritionists and lifestyle experts to get the right guidance on dietary and lifestyle habits to avoid summer heat problems!
Lesser known facts about heatstroke:-
Here are some lesser known facts about heatstroke:
- Heat stroke can occur even without direct sun exposure: While prolonged exposure to direct sunlight is a common cause of heat stroke, it can also occur in indoor environments with high temperatures and inadequate ventilation. Certain occupations, such as factory workers or firefighters, may be at risk even without being exposed to direct sunlight.
- Certain medications can increase the risk of heatstroke: Some medications can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature or increase the risk of dehydration, making individuals more susceptible to heat stroke. Examples include antihistamines, diuretics, beta blockers, and certain psychiatric medications. It’s essential to consult a healthcare professional or read medication labels for any heat-related precautions.
- Age and underlying health conditions can increase vulnerability: Infants, young children, and older adults are more susceptible to heat stroke due to their reduced ability to regulate body temperature. Additionally, individuals with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or respiratory problems may be at higher risk.
- Heat stroke can occur during mild temperatures: Heatstroke can develop even when temperatures are not excessively high. High humidity levels can hinder the evaporation of sweat, preventing the body from effectively cooling down. This means that heat stroke can occur in milder temperatures if the humidity is high enough and the body’s cooling mechanisms are overwhelmed.
- Heat stroke can have long term consequences: Surviving a heat stroke episode does not guarantee a complete recovery. Heat stroke can have long-term effects on the body, including organ damage, muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), kidney problems, neurological deficits, and an increased risk of future heat related illnesses.
- Certain factors increase individual susceptibility: Factors such as obesity, alcohol consumption, inadequate physical fitness, and wearing excessive clothing or protective gear can increase the risk of heat stroke. Additionally, individuals who are unacclimatized to hot environments or sudden temperature changes are more vulnerable.
- Heat stroke can affect pets: Animals, especially dogs and cats, are also susceptible to heat stroke. Leaving pets in hot cars or exposing them to high temperatures without access to shade and water can lead to heat stroke. It is important to take precautions and provide appropriate care for pets during hot weather.
Remember, heat stroke is a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention. Being aware of the risk factors, understanding the signs and symptoms, and taking preventive measures can help minimise the chances of heat stroke and its potential complications.