What's it like: To suffer a heatstroke

Heatstroke can follow heat cramps or heat exhaustion. Some of the first signs might include fainting, a throbbing headache, dizziness or a lack of sweating. When you stop sweating, that can mean that your body’s regulation system has shut down, and you can no longer cool yourself.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: June 22, 2014
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What is heatstroke?

A heatstroke is generally caused when someone has prolonged exposure to heat. The main sign of a heatstroke is when the body’s temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher.

This summer, Emergency Medical Service Authority paramedics have responded to 38 heat calls since May 1. Last summer, EMSA declared its first “heat alert,” when dispatchers received five heat-related emergency calls, on June 13. In 2011, one heat alert lasted for 58 straight days as temperatures soared.

What are the symptoms?

A heatstroke can follow heat cramps or heat exhaustion. Some of the first signs might include fainting, a throbbing headache, dizziness or a lack of sweating. When you stop sweating, that can mean that your body’s regulation system has shut down, and you can no longer cool yourself. Oftentimes, it’s a progression of symptoms. Other symptoms can include irrational behavior, extreme confusion, red skin, shallow breathing and a weak pulse.

You can suffer from a heatstroke without symptoms though, especially if you’re taking certain medications, such as antihistamines, diet pills and water pills, and also if you’re abusing illegal drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine.

Your chances of suffering from heat-related illnesses are also increased when you’re wearing heavy clothing, humidity is high and the heat index is above 100.

Children, people older than 65 and people who are obese are at a higher risk of suffering from heat-related illnesses. However, a variety of people can become overheated and suffer heatstrokes, including people exercising outside when it’s hot, especially if they’re not acclimated to the heat, or people working with asphalt or in construction. It’s important not to ignore your body when spending time outdoors.

How is it treated?

A heatstroke is a medical emergency, meaning you should get to care as quickly as possible.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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