Heat stroke

Heat stroke: A core body temperature that rises above 104 F (40 C) accompanied by hot, dry skin and central nervous system abnormalities such as delirium, convulsions, or coma. Heat stroke that results from exposure to a high environmental temperature is called nonexertional heat stroke. Heat stroke that results from strenuous exercise is called exertional heat stroke. Irrespective of type, heat stroke can be LIFE-THREATENING! Immediate medical attention is essential when problems first begin. Symptoms may include confusion, combativeness, bizarre behavior, faintness, staggering, strong rapid pulse, dry flushed skin, lack of sweating, possible delirium or coma.

Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 F (41.1 C) or higher within 10-15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include:

  • an extremely high body temperature (above 103 F (39.4 C), orally)
  • red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • rapid, strong pulse
  • throbbing headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • unconsciousness

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a LIFE-THREATENING emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim:

  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place in a cool shower; spray with cool water from a garden hose; sponge with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102 F (38.3-38.5 C) .
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the victim alcohol to drink.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

Sometimes a victim's muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.