It is the most serious form of heat injury and is considered a medical emergency.
Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes.
Heat stroke often occurs as a progression from milder heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), and heat exhaustion. But it can strike even if you have no previous signs of heat injury.
The hallmark symptom of heat stroke is a core body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. But fainting may be the first sign.
Other symptoms may include:
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot, and dry skin
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
Try these cooling strategies:
- Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.
- Apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
- Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water.
- If the person is young and heathy and suffered heat stroke while exercising vigorously — what’s known as exertional heat stroke — you can use an ice bath to help cool the body.