During summer season we often hear of people suffering from heat stroke. Heat stroke which is also called hyperthermia can be defined as a state in which the body becomes overheated in a very short period of time.
A potentially dangerous condition, heat stroke can even result in death. When the body temperature soars to 104 degree Fahrenheit or more, a person suffers from a heat stroke. Excessive physical activity or exposure to extreme heat can result in spiraling body temperatures and ultimately to heat stroke.
There are many neurological and physiological symptoms which accompany a heat stroke. Heat stroke normally occurs when the body is not able to dispel excess heat and instead begins to store it up. This trapped heat can result in hyperthermia. A person who has suffered a heat stroke needs immediate medical attention to prevent organ failure, brain damage or even death.
Who is At Risk?
The chances of suffering from heat stroke are higher in certain groups of people than others.
Infants are twice as likely to suffer from heat stroke as compared to adults because their bodies become overheated very quickly. The chances of babies suffering from dehydration related heat stroke are greater because they are unable to drink fluids on their own and are dependant on adults to feed them water. Young mothers often make the mistake of swaddling their babies in warm woolen clothes during the height of summer which can also increase the chances of the babies suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The chances of elderly people suffering from heat stroke are also very high. There are two reasons behind the increased incidence of the older people suffering from heat stroke. The first is that the CNS or the central nervous systems of the older people, especially those over the age of 65 years, have started to deteriorate.
Deterioration of the central nervous system means that the body is not able to cope up with sudden increase or dip in temperature levels. Elderly people also take a variety of medications for kidney ailments, heart disease, diabetes which can increase their chances of suffering from heat stroke caused by medicine related dehydration.
Obese people have a higher incidence of suffering from heat stroke. Excess weight means that the body is not able to regulate the internal body temperature properly.
Athletes who spend long hours outdoors have a very high chance of suffering from heat stroke. Direct sun exposure can lead to excessive sweating which in turn causes dehydration, exhaustion and finally sun stroke.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
There are many classic signs which a heat stroke patient will exhibit. Understanding these signs and administering proper treatment can help to save the life of a patient who has suffered a heat stroke.
High Body Temperature
People who have suffered a heat stroke normally have high body temperature. The body temperature shoots up to 104 degree Fahrenheit. The high body temperature can be attributed to the heat that is trapped inside the body. It is extremely important to bring down the body temperature of a person who has suffered a heat stroke as any further increase in temperature can prove to be fatal.
Absence of Sweating
Sweating is the body’s natural mechanism of cooling down. There is an absence of sweating in individuals who have suffered a heat stroke. The skin also appears red and flushed. The absence of sweating is one of the reasons why the body temperature rises.
A heat stroke patient will normally have a rapid pulse. This is because the body is working extra hard to bring down the rising temperature levels. Once the body temperature goes back to normal, the pulse rate also decreases.
Some patients may feel nauseous as a result of the increased body temperature. If the patient is not given proper treatment, they may even start to vomit violently. This can lead to further body fluid loss and can hasten the dehydration process which can prove fatal.
The individual who has suffered a heat stroke will complain of a pounding headache. This is due to two reasons. First being that the person is severely dehydrated and the second reason is that the body temperature is increasing rapidly.
The patient who has suffered a heat stroke will complain of extreme fatigue. They may even be unable to stand up because of their extreme tiredness and will request to lie down. Sometimes due to excessive fatigue the patient may even faint.
Heat stroke patients will also complain of severe muscle cramps and a tingling sensation in their limbs. This is again due to the imbalance in the body electrolyte levels due to dehydration and increasing body temperatures. It is very important to give proper fluids to prevent the condition of muscle cramps from worsening.
Difficulty in Breathing
Another classic sign exhibited by people with sun stroke is the difficulty in breathing. Difficulty in breathing is often accompanied by a rapid pulse rate as well. The reason for difficulty in breathing could be due to sever heat exhaustion. In severe cases difficulty in breathing could be an indication that the internal organs are beginning to shut down.
Heat stroke patients often suffer from hallucinations. However the degree of hallucination could depend on the level of sun stroke. People who have suffered a mild sun stroke may have only mild hallucination while people who have suffered severe heat stroke suffer from extreme hallucination.
Confusion and Agitation
Most people who have suffered a heat stroke will appear to be confused of their surrounding or where they are going. They may also appear agitated. Confusion and agitation are two common symptoms of heat stroke which is normally seen in the more advanced cases.
When the body becomes excessively dehydrated and the vital body signs are affected the body responds through seizures. When a heat stroke patient starts to suffer seizures then it is extremely imperative that the patient be shifted to a hospital and rendered proper medical care to prevent the patient slipping into coma or even dying.