Heat Stroke

Summer weather brings plenty of outdoor activities and fun, but it can also be dangerous. Heat stroke, also known as sun stroke, is a serious illness that can impact anyone exposed to extreme heat. While the body usually does a good job of cooling itself, when things go awry, a good day can quickly turn into an emergency. 

It’s important to be prepared. Learn more about what heat stroke is, who is at risk, and what you can do if you believe someone has it.   

What is Heat Stroke?

According to the official definition, heat stroke occurs when the body’s core temperature rises higher than 105 degrees. 

It is the most serious heat-related illness a person can have. The body is a fragile ecosystem and high internal temperatures can lead to multiorgan failure and brain damage. If the body doesn’t cool down, heat stroke can be fatal. 

What are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat stroke is usually signified by one or a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Red, hot and dry skin that isn’t sweating

  • Rapid heart beat

  • Severe headache

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Confusion

  • Unconsciousness

What Puts Someone at Risk for Heat Stroke?

Heat stroke can happen to anyone, but it is more likely to occur in someone older than age 50. When heatstroke occurs in younger people, it’s typically because they overexert themselves during physical activity. 

If you have underlying health problems or take prescription medications that affect the body’s ability to cool itself, then you might be at greater risk of suffering from heat stroke. There are hundreds of medications that can do this, particularly if they dilate blood vessels and inhibit the body’s ability. Here are a few of the most common: 

  • Beta blockers

  • Antispasmodic medications

  • Cholesterol medications

  • Pain medicines

  • Seizure medications

  • Antihistamines

  • Diet Pills

  • Antidepressants

Many of the medications above dilate blood vessels, making the body unable to cool itself normally by breathing faster and sweating.  

Environmental conditions also increase your risk. This is especially true if the heat index is above 90 degrees.

What Should I do if Someone has Heat Stroke?

When it comes to heatstroke, time is of the essence. If you think someone has heat stroke, call 911 immediately.

Until the medics arrive, be sure to get the person into the shade. Start trying to cool them down with cool water and ice packs, if accessible. This will help prevent the body temperature from rising further and causing further damage. 

Discover if you are at greater risk for heat stroke. Find a primary care doctor near you.