April 23, 2010

Heatstroke/Sunstroke - Part 5

Part 5 - Treatment

Urgent Care

If someone shows the signs of sunstroke, seek medical treatment or call 911 immediately. Before medical treatment arrives, move the individual to a cool area. Look for any medical alert notices – bracelet or necklace or even ankle bracelet. Provide cool drinks, preferably a cool (not cold) drink containing both a little sugar and salt. Remove any constricting clothing. If the person has diabetes, do not give liquids containing sugar unless meter readings can be taken to verify blood glucose readings.

Treatment strategies depend on the severity of the symptoms. Treatment for sunstroke begins immediately upon diagnosis by a medical doctor. In mild cases, the body can be effectively cooled by taking the patient to a shaded or air-conditioned area, removing most clothing and applying cool water or ice packs to the skin. Drinking iced fluids also helps return the body temperature to a safe level. In severe cases, treatment involves rapid cooling, either by immersing the body in an ice water bath or by evaporative cooling. In the latter procedure, large circulating fans blow cool air across wet skin.

Self Care

Take steps to prevent heatstroke and sunstroke. Drink plenty of water, stay out of the sun, and avoid strenuous activity during hot weather. In addition, avoid drinking caffeinated beverages to keep yourself from becoming dehydrated.

If you start to experience the symptoms of heatstroke, move to a cool, shady area and drink something cool, preferably a beverage containing both sugar and salt. Warning – be careful giving sugar to a person with diabetes.


Recovery from sunstroke depends on the speed and effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment. When treatment for sunstroke is administered promptly, the patient can expect a full recovery in one or two days. In severe cases, when body temperature climbs to 106°F (41.1°C), sunstroke can cause shock. After prolonged exposure to such high body temperatures, brain damage can occur. Death occurs in about 20% of heatstroke cases according to one study. The likelihood of dying from heatstroke increases with a longer duration of heat exposure.


After a full recovery from heatstroke, little follow-up care is needed. Recovered patients may want to rest and stay in cool areas for several days. Patients should also adopt aggressive prevention strategies to keep sunstroke from recurring.

How do you treat a heat stroke victim?

Victims of heat stroke must receive immediate treatment to avoid permanent organ damage. First and foremost, cool the victim.

  • Get the victim to a shady area, remove clothing, apply cool or tepid water to the skin (for example you may spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose), fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation, and place ice packs under armpits and groins.

  • Monitor body temperature with a thermometer and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F (38.3-38.8°C).

  • Always notify emergency services (911) immediately. If their arrival is delayed, they can give you further instructions for treatment of the victim.




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