What is a Heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of continued exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. The condition is most common in the summer months. Heatstroke is a serious condition and needs immediate medical attention. If left untreated, it can get very severe and in some extreme cases, heatstroke can cause fatal organ damage. The major symptoms are high body temperature, excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, racing heart rate, rapid breathing, flushed skin, and more.

In this article, we have discussed heatstroke causes, treatment, recovery, and prevention methods in detail.

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About Heatstroke

Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature remains high over an extended duration, whether due to an intense workout regime or simply due to the weather conditions. It is also commonly known as sunstroke. Heatstroke is a serious condition and needs immediate medical attention. The longer it is left untreated, the more severe the condition can become. In some extreme cases, heatstroke can cause fatal organ damage.

In this section, we have discussed heatstroke causes, treatment, recovery, and prevention methods in detail. Let us begin by learning the symptoms of heatstroke.

Symptoms of Heatstroke

When the body temperature increases and you lose the ability to restore the correct temperature, you might suffer from a heatstroke. Some common symptoms of heatstroke are as follows:

  • Headache: A headache is quite common when experiencing heatstroke.

  • High Body Temperature: An elevated body temperature is a common symptom of heatstroke.

  • Mental Changes: When we refer to mental changes, it means heat stroke can lead to confusion, seizures (mainly in children), delirium, slurred speech, irritation, and coma (in extreme cases).

  • Sweat Changes: Heatstroke caused by hot weather will leave the skin feeling hot and dry. However, when heatstroke is due to intensive physical activity, it leaves the skin feeling moist.

  • Nausea: You can feel sick in your guts or even the urge to vomit.

  • Colour change: The skin turns red as the body temperature increases.

  • Breathing: If you are suffering from a heatstroke, your breathing pattern can become quicker and shallower.

  • Heart Rate: In an attempt to cool the body, your heart will be put under strain. It, thus, increases the heart rate.

Causes of Heatstroke

Heatstroke causes are classified into two types. These are -

1. Exertional Heat Stroke

As the name suggests, this type of heatstroke occurs due to intense physical activity in hot and humid weather. It can be due to a heavy workout regime. Exertional heatstroke can happen if you are not accustomed to heavy physical activity in high temperatures.

2. Non-Exertional Heat Stroke

The non-exertional or classic heatstroke occurs when you are exposed to a hot environment for a longer duration. It is common during summer. Older people are more likely to be susceptible to this condition.

In both these cases, heatstroke is mainly exacerbated when you wear too many clothing layers, avoid drinking water, consume alcohol, etc., which tends to affect the body temperature.

Diagnosis of Heatstroke

Doctors can diagnose heat stroke from your appearance and after discussing their recent routine. In some cases, the doctor can recommend taking medical tests to rule out other possibilities of health issues. These tests include -

  • Blood test: It helps understand the gas levels in the body along with potassium and sodium content in the blood. It further helps the doctor determine whether there is any damage to the central nervous system (CNS).

  • Urine test: It helps check kidney functionalities. Dark urine colour can signify heat-related conditions in the patient.

  • Muscle test: It confirms whether there has been any damage to the muscle tissues.

  • X-Rays: It confirms whether there is any damage to internal organs.

Based on the diagnosis result, the doctor recommends appropriate treatment and preventive methods.

Treatment for Heatstroke

If you are suffering from heatstroke, the aim should be to lower your body temperature to prevent further damage. This can be done in several ways, such as -

  • Cold shower or baths: Drawing a quick cool bath is an effective way to lower your body’s temperature.

  • Evaporation cooling: If taking a bath is impossible, you can mist your body with cold water. Fan the surface until the skin cools down.

  • Ice packs and cold cloths: Soak a cloth in cold water and wrap it over the skin. You can also use ice packs to recover from a heatstroke.

  • Muscle relaxants: The use of medication such as benzodiazepines can help reduce body temperature.

Note that heatstroke is a serious condition. You might need immediate medical attention as well. So, be mindful of your treatment methods.

Prevention of Heatstroke

The rising temperature during summer is rarely considered a health threat in India. However, it can pose some serious risk to people’s health at large. Overexposure to sun heat during summer can lead to various summer diseases; one of them is heatstroke.

Heatstroke can become a life-threatening condition when avoided for a longer duration. Hence, it is advisable to maintain your body temperature and drink plenty of water in the summers. Additionally, you can use the following tips.

  • Wear loose-fitted, light-coloured clothes during hot and humid weather. It allows your body to breathe and maintain its temperature.

  • Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-based fluids.

  • Do not leave anyone in cars parked under scorching sun heat. The temperature can rise by 7° C in under 10 minutes in a sealed motor vehicle.

  • Wear protective gears when travelling during peak hours (between 11 am and 4 pm) during summer. Wear SPF 30+ sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses to avoid sunburn and other skin issues.


Heatstroke, while it is common, is an underestimated condition. Make sure that you and your family members (especially children) are following effective summer home remedies and other preventive measures to avoid the wrath of the season.

Serious health issues arrive uninvited and most often leave with financial overhead. The least you can do is cover yourself and your loved ones with a comprehensive health insurance plan. The policy takes care of the medical and hospitalisation expenses whenever needed.

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