Heatstroke is a dangerous heat-illness that necessitates immediate medical care. Individuals who exercise in warm climates particularly in elevated humidity is the usual cause of heatstroke. In such instances, the body exerts to keep itself cool due to the diminished efficiency of evaporation of sweat.
Dehydration is also an additional cause of heatstroke in which the individual was not able to replace the fluids lost while sweating.
What are the indications of heatstroke?
Even though the symptoms vary slightly between individuals, these are the usual indications:
- Elevated body temperature (rectal temperature higher than 41 degrees centigrade)
- Elevated breathing rate
- Tachycardia or elevated pulse rate
- Confusion, aggression or irritation
- Loss of consciousness
In some individuals, they develop symptoms of heat cramps or heat exhaustion initially. If left untreated, this can progress to heatstroke.
The objective of treatment for heatstroke is to lower down the body temperature as soon as possible. Remember that it is the delay in cooling down the body in which heatstroke becomes a deadly condition. The faster this is done, the better the outcome for the individual.
The initial step is to notify emergency services. While waiting for the emergency team, the following measures can be carried out to start the cooling process:
- Put the individual in a bath of cold water for 5-10 minutes. During this period, the body temperature should drop significantly. This should not continue longer than 10 minutes or if the individual starts to shiver since this can trigger hypothermia. In case a cool bath is not accessible, other alternatives include misting cool water using a hose and placing towels immersed in cold water throughout the body.
- Provide the individual with a cool drink and fan to allow the sweat to evaporate.
Once the emergency team arrives, intravenous fluids are given to deal with any associated dehydration. Being admitted to a healthcare facility is likely to ensure the cooling is maintained and there are not further complications.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on heatstroke is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage heat-related illnesses including heatstroke, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.