Heat stroke (Sun stroke)- Symptoms and Treatment

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What is heatstroke? 

Heatstroke is a severe medical condition that occurs when the body’s internal temperature rises due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. This condition, also known as sunstroke, can be life-threatening if left untreated and is caused by long exposure to high temperatures or physical activity in hot weather.
Emergency care is required for heatstroke. If left untreated, your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles could suffer serious injuries. The more extended treatment is postponed, the greater the damage, raising your risk of fatal complications or significant complications.

Types of heatstroke 

The most severe heat harm that can happen is heatstroke. The body overheats to a core temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher. 
Heatstroke comes in two different forms.
Exertional heatstroke – Heatstroke brought on by excessive physical exertion outside in hot weather is known as exertional heatstroke.
Nonexertional (classic) heatstroke – People with chronic, underlying health issues, such as diabetes, and older folks are more likely to have this type of heatstroke. The symptoms of classic heatstroke may develop gradually over hours or days.

Symptoms of heatstroke 

The onset of heatstroke symptoms might be sudden or gradual. Heatstroke is always a medical emergency.
Infants and adults over the age of 65 are more susceptible to heatstroke. Also, those who engage in physical activity or work outside in sweltering conditions are at risk. However, anyone can experience heatstroke, so awareness of the signs is crucial.

  • High body temperature- The primary symptom of heatstroke is a core body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or more excellent, measured with a rectal thermometer.
  • Altered mental or behavioural condition- Heatstroke can cause a variety of symptoms, including confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures, and coma.
  • Sweating – Your skin feels hot and dry to the touch if you have heatstroke from hot weather. However, your skin may feel dry or slightly damp if you have heatstroke from vigorous exercise.
  • Vomiting and nauseous– You might feel sick to your stomach because of vomit.
  • Flushed skin – Your skin may turn red as your body temperature rises.
  • Rapid breathing – You might start breathing quickly and shallowly.
  • Headache– Your head might throb.

Heat stroke symptoms in children and infants

Infants and young children are unable to control their body temperatures efficiently. In infants and young toddlers, heatstroke can quickly become a medical emergency. In children and newborns, symptoms could include

  • Fever of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
  • Red, flushed-looking skin
  • Hot, dry, or sweating skin
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lethargy or sluggishness
  • Rapid pulse or heart rate
  • Confusion

Causes of heatstroke

Being in a scorching and humid atmosphere is what causes heatstroke. Wearing bulky or dark clothing in a warm atmosphere, drinking alcohol, or needing more water may all raise your risk.
Your risk of heatstroke may rise if you have certain medical disorders, such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Age is a risk factor but not a cause. Babies and people over 65 have more difficulty controlling their internal body temperature. In the event of overheating, this may make people in these age ranges more vulnerable to heatstroke. 
In hot interior environments rather than in the open air, older adults may be more susceptible to heatstroke. You can prevent this situation by going to cooling centres or by installing fans and air conditioning.

Risk factors of heatstroke

 Some risk factors for heat stroke include
Age- The health of your central nervous system determines how well you can handle intense heat. As the central nervous system is not fully developed at a young age, it starts to degenerate in adults over 65, making your body unable to adjust to fluctuations in body temperature. Both age groups typically struggle to stay hydrated, which raises risk.
Absence of cooling- Fans may help you feel better, but the best approach to staying calm and reducing humidity in hot weather is with air conditioning.
Sudden exposure to a warm climate- If the temperature suddenly rises, as it can during a heat wave in the early summer or a sudden drop in humidity, you might be more susceptible to a heat-related disease.
Reduce your activity for at least a few days to give yourself time to adjust to the change. Even after several weeks of hotter weather, you could still be in danger of suffering from heatstroke.
Exercise in the heat- Among the circumstances that can result in heatstroke include military training and participating in hot-weather activities like football or long-distance races.
Certain medicines- Some drugs alter how well your body responds to heat and maintains fluid balance. Use drugs that constrict your blood vessels (vasoconstrictors), control your blood pressure by inhibiting adrenaline (beta blockers), eliminate sodium and water from your body (diuretics), or lessen mental symptoms (antidepressants or antipsychotics). You should be extra cautious in hot weather.

First aid for heatstroke

Do what you can to lower your body temperature while you wait for emergency medical assistance.
Some things to try are applying cold compresses to the groyne, back of neck, forehead, and armpits if you’re conscious and able to hold down fluid, moving out of the heat and moving into an air-conditioned room or shaded area, removing excess clothing, taking cool or cold water, or sucking on ice chips are all ways to combat heatstroke.
Even if you feel better after doing these actions, you should still look for medical examination and treatment. You are more susceptible to heatstroke if you use illegal stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine, as well as stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Specific health issues- Your risk of heatstroke may rise if you have certain long-term conditions, including heart or lung problems. The same goes for being overweight, inactive, and having a history of heat stroke.

Diagnosis of heatstroke 

The primary method for identifying heatstroke is a physical examination and symptom evaluation. They will probably use a thermometer in a Foley catheter, a kind of urinary catheter, to check your temperature if heatstroke is suspected or confirmed. This enables ongoing observation.

Treatment of heatstroke 

Following a diagnosis, you will be offered medical treatment to lower your core body temperature. Your temperature may be reduced by a medical practitioner using a variety of methods, such as

  • Cold-water lavage (catheters containing cold water are inserted into the rectum or throat)
  • Ice packs
  • Cold-water immersion
  • Evaporative cooling, which uses misted water and blowing air
  • Cooling blankets
  • Cooled-down intravenous (IV) fluids

The body must be cooled down to reduce the risk of heatstroke consequences such as heart, brain, or renal damage. If you are unconscious, cooling will continue while you are being revived.
Your body temperature will be continuously checked for hypothermia throughout the cooling procedure.
Medications such as muscle relaxants may be administered to stop shivering. Shivering that can’t be controlled raises one’s body temperature and should be avoided. Additionally, medications may be used to prevent seizures.
You could have IV fluids to address dehydration if necessary. After stabilising you, a medical practitioner might advise testing to determine whether your muscles or internal organs were hurt. Tests include

  • Urine test to assess kidney function 
  • Blood tests to measure blood gas, potassium, and sodium levels
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Muscle function tests
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays

Tips to rehydrate 

Follow these instructions to create an oral rehydration solution at home:
Boil five cups (1 litre) of water, then remove it from the heat source and stir in six teaspoons (tsp) of sugar and one-half teaspoon (tsp) of table salt. 
Let the mixture cool completely before serving. You can add natural flavourings like fruit juices, honey, or maple syrup.
Some drinks and foods that can act as oral-rehydrating formulas include

  • Weak, non-caffeinated tea
  • Gruel (cooked cereal and water)
  • Carrot soup
  • Green coconut water
  • Fresh fruit juices, ideally orange, pear, or peach
  • Rice water or congee
  • Banana puree mixed with water

Prevention of heatstroke

 You may reduce your risk of heatstroke and other heat-related disorders by implementing the following advice:
 Drink lots of water or sports drinks with electrolytes to stay hydrated.
Spend less time outside while it’s boiling.
Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured, lightweight clothing when outside in the heat.
In hot temperatures, install air conditioners or use fans indoors.
Avoid strenuous or excessive physical activities outside in hot and humid weather.
Additionally, you should avoid leaving a child, pet, or adult in a closed, warm environment like a car or a windowless, non-air-conditioned apartment.

When should I contact my doctor? 

Contact your doctor right away if anything out of the ordinary occurs when you are recovering from heatstroke and experiencing any of the following:

  • Cognitive dysfunction (problems thinking or remembering).
  • Liver or kidney problems.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Low urine output


You can avoid heatstroke by keeping yourself cool and hydrated. Heatstroke is a severe medical issue that has to be treated right away. The body temperature of those with this illness can reach 104°F (40°C) or higher. The risk of heatstroke is higher in infants, children, older adults, and people with specific chronic diseases.


1. How long does heatstroke last? 

The sooner you receive treatment for heatstroke, the simpler and faster your recovery will be. However, once your symptoms have subsided for about a week, you can still feel heat-sensitive.

2. What’s the difference between heatstroke and heat exhaustion?

The difference between the two is primarily due to core body temperature. A person suffering from heat exhaustion has a core body temperature of about 100°F (38°C). People have heatstroke when their core body temperature exceeds 104°F (40°C).


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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