Heat Stroke Treatment Questions and Answers
Heat stroke is serious and requires medical attention. If you have heat stroke, visit AFC Urgent Care. Call us to book an appointment today. We accept walk-ins. We are located at 5671 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111.
What causes heat stroke?
Heat stroke is caused by an overheating of the body that is typically the result of either physical exertion performed in high temperatures or prolonged exposure to high temperatures that the body isn’t used to. While heat exposure can present itself in different forms of injury or illness, heat stroke is the most severe form and individuals are at a higher risk when their body’s temperature rises to 104 F (or 40 C) or higher. The condition most often occurs in the summer months or in tropical climates that the body is not acclimatized to.
Heat stroke is more likely to occur as a result of:
- Exposure to a hot environment that can cause the core body temperature to rise well above the normal level. This is known as classic or non-exertional heat stroke, typically occurring in hot and humid weather, particularly after prolonged exposure. People with chronic illnesses and older adults are most often affected by this type of heat stroke.
- Exertional heat stroke occurs when the body performs physical activity in hot weather that causes the core body temperature to rise significantly above the normal range. While anyone can experience exertional heat stroke, it tends to happen more in people who are working out in a hot climate that their body isn’t used to.
The risk of heat stroke in either case can be increased by:
- Wearing excessive amounts of clothing and overdressing for the weather that can cause increased sweat production and prevent the sweat from being able to evaporate, which can cause the body to overheat.
- Drinking alcohol can affect the body’s ability to properly regulate its internal temperature, leading to heat stroke.
- Not drinking enough water can cause the body to become dehydrated, which affects its ability to replenish fluids lost through sweat. Sweating is our body’s natural defense against overheating and is the body’s way of cooling down.
How do you treat heat stroke?
Mild heat stroke symptoms can often be treated at-home, however moderate to severe cases should receive medical attention through an urgent care or emergency room for treatment. The goal of heat stroke treatment is to return the body’s internal temperature back to an average, normal body temperature. Failure to do this quickly after heat stroke sets in can result in damage to the brain or other vital internal organs. Some options for treatment include:
- Getting immersed in a bath of ice-cold water is one of the quickest and most effective ways to lower the body’s core temperature. This should be done as quickly as possible following the onset of heat stroke to limit the risk of organ damage and in severe cases, death.
- When cold water immersion is not option, an evaporation cooling method can be used on the body as an alternative. This treatment is performed by misting cold water over the skin’s surface and fanning it off with warm air, forcing it to evaporate. The evaporation process will help cool the skin and lower the body’s internal temperature.
- Another option when immersion isn’t available is to wrap the body with a special cooling blanket, then apply ice packs to specific areas of the body such as the back, neck, armpits and groin to lower the core temperature.
- With exposure to cold that these treatments use, the patient may start shivering, which increases the body’s temperature. In these cases, a doctor can give the patient a muscle relaxant which will prevent the shivering and allow the body to adequately cool off.
In the case of moderate to severe heat stroke, individuals should take steps to try to lower their body temperature while they wait for medical care, such as some of the methods listed above. Mild cases of heat stroke can be treated through the simple techniques below to bring down the body’s temperature:
- Find a shady or air-conditioned place to cool off, such as a basement, mall or library.
- Wrap the sufferer in cool, damp sheets or spray the skin with cool water and evaporate it using a fan.
- Immerse yourself in cool water, such as a bath or shower. A pond, stream, lake or other body of cool water can also be used if a bath or shower isn’t available.
- Drink plenty of water or a sports drink to help replenish the body’s natural salt, if allowed by your doctor. Avoid sugary or alcoholic beverages as these can make symptoms worse.
If you are suffering from heat stroke and none of these methods are helping, seek medical attention immediately at American Family Care – Urgent Care. We accept walk-ins too.
What happens to your body during heat stroke?
During exposure to a hot environment, your body’s internal temperature will naturally rise. With heat stroke, the temperature rises to dangerous levels that can negatively affect the body’s natural processes, putting the sufferer at risk of serious internal organ damage that can lead to death if not treated. Some cases of heat stroke have shown people to become confused, agitated, irritated, delirious, have slurred speech and in extreme cases they can have seizures and fall into a coma. People suffering from heat stroke may experience nausea or start vomiting rapid and shallow breathing, a racing heart rate, headaches and red, flushed skin.
What is the difference between heat stroke and sun stroke?
Sunstroke and heat stroke are both the result of prolonged exposure to heat that causes an increase in the body’s internal temperature. The symptoms between the two are almost identical and in both conditions the core body temperature increases to at least 104 F (or 40 C), which can cause damage to the brain and vital organs if left untreated. Sunstroke falls under the umbrella of heat stroke and differs only slightly from a heat stroke classification in that it is caused by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. In cases where there is limited or no exposure to the sun, the condition is classified as heat stroke. If you are experiencing heat stroke, we encourage you to contact our team of healthcare professionals today through our website. American Family Care – Urgent Care is here for you and your family 7 days a week. We serve patients from Clairemont CA, Chula Vista CA, San Diego CA, Santa Ana CA, Anaheim CA, and Long Beach CA.