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.




April 21, 2010

Heatstroke/Sunstroke - Part 4

Part 4 - Diagnosis

Sunstroke is typically diagnosed on the basis of symptoms alone. To get the best measure of your body's core temperature, your doctor may use a rectal thermometer. Your doctor may also take your blood pressure and ask for a blood or urine sample.

Your doctor may perform tests to rule out conditions with symptoms similar to those of sunstroke. Irregular heartbeats, a heart attack, a fever-causing infection, fluid loss related to medications, or cocaine intoxication can mimic sunstroke by causing elevated blood pressure and body temperature.

Risk Factors for Sunstroke:

Very old or very young age

Low level of physical activity


Smoking, drug, and alcohol use

Heart disease

High blood pressure

Diseases of the skin, kidney, or liver

Decreased ability to sweat, such as in scleroderma and cystic fibrosis

Medications that can aggravate sunstroke, including water pills (diuretics), allergy pills (antihistamines), tranquilizers, anticholinergics, and amphetamines

Heavy, restrictive clothing

Poor ventilation or lack of air conditioning in home

High humidity

This is why it is so important to get someone suspected of having heatstroke or sunstroke to a doctor or emergency room as quickly as possible. Using the 911 call is the fastest and best way and the reason this is repeated through out this discussion. Other items are repeated as well to emphasize their importance.

April 18, 2010

Heatstroke/Sunstroke - Part 3

Part 3 - Symptoms

Symptoms of sunstroke/heatstroke can occur suddenly. Once your body loses its ability to regulate heat, body temperature can rise quickly. Symptoms of sunstroke include sudden headache, dizziness, weakness, or fainting. Because your body's thermostat is malfunctioning, you will only sweat a little bit or not at all. The skin is hot and dry. Body temperature can rise to 102°F (38.9°C) or higher. In severe cases, repeated vomiting and coma can occur.

Risk Factors

Young children and the elderly are at an increased risk for heatstroke and sunstroke. Young children who rely on others to modify their environments, for example, to remove extra blankets or heavy clothing, may be sensitive to rising temperatures. Elderly adults are less sensitive to changes in temperature, so their thermostats work less efficiently. People with excess body fat are also more likely to retain heat.

Conditions or medications that cause dehydration can increase your risk for sunstroke Skin disorders such as scleroderma can interfere with your ability to sweat. Dehydrating medications; for example, the diuretics furosemide (Lasix) or hydrochlorothiaszide (Esidrix) make less water available in the body for sweat, thereby crippling your body's cooling system.

What are heat stroke symptoms?

Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. Sometimes a person experiences symptoms of heat exhaustion before progressing to heat strokes.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps and aches, and dizziness.

However, some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning.

Different people may have different symptoms and signs of heat stroke. However, common symptoms and signs of heat/sun stroke include: high body temperature, the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, disorientation, seizure, and coma. In the more severe cases, heatstroke can even cause organ dysfunction, brain damage, and death.