Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical attention. It is different from other heat-induced illnesses like heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia, an abnormally elevated body temperature. Heat stroke is sometimes also referred to as sun stroke.
Severe hyperthermia is defined as a body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher. The symptoms associated with hyperthermia often mimic those of a heart attack. Some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and without warning.
Heat stroke is caused when the body is unable to cool itself down. Metabolism usually produces heat in the body and that heat is usually able to dissipate by radiation through the skin or by evaporation of sweat. However, in extreme heat, high humidity, or vigorous physical exertion under the sun, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat.
Another cause of heat stroke is dehydration. A dehydrated person may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which causes the body temperature to rise.
To treat a person with heat stroke it is first and foremost important to cool the individual. Take the person to a shady area, remove clothing, apply cool or tepid water to the skin — such as from a garden hose, fan the person, and place ice packs under armpits and groin.
If the person is able to drink liquids, he or she should drink water or other cool beverages that do not contain alcohol or caffeine.
Always notify an emergency service immediately. If their arrival is delayed, they can provide further instructions for treatment.
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