Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia or heat-related illness that occurs when there is an elevation in body temperature, often accompanied by dehydration. In other words, it occurs when the body loses its ability to control its temperature (temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher) and the person’s body temperature becomes dangerously high.

Heat stroke is sometimes referred to as sun stroke (sunstroke is when heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight). It can be fatal and life-threatening, if not promptly and properly treated.

Individuals at risk are:

  • Infants and children left in cars.
  • The elderly (often with associated heart diseases, lung diseases, kidney diseases, or who are on medications that make them vulnerable to dehydration and heat strokes).
  • Athletes.
  • Individuals who work outside and physically exert themselves under the sun


Heat stroke could affect the following organs of the body:

  • Brain (central nervous system dysfunction
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Severe hyperthermia

Causes of heat stroke may include:

  • Dehydration.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Side effects of certain medications (for example, dehydration, increased urination, sweating).
  • Wearing excess and/or tight clothing can contribute to causing heat stroke by inhibiting cooling by evaporation.
  • Sunburn.


Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. An individual may experience symptoms of heat exhaustion before progressing to heat strokes. Some common symptoms are:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • High body temperature.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Weakness.
  • Changes in nervous system function.
  • Rashes that looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
  • Heat cramps (a painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen).
  • Heat syncope (fainting)
  • Heat exhaustion (warning that the body is getting too hot).



  • Avoid dehydration
  • Avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather.
  • Limit your exposure to heat.
  • Wear clothing that allows evaporative cooling.
  • Early treatment of heat cramps and heat exhaustion.
  • Keep your environment clean.
  • Ensure to take sensible precautions when it’s very hot.
  • Replenish your body withelectrolytes (such as sodium) as well as fluids if you sweat excessively or perform vigorous activity in the sunlight for prolonged periods.



  • A bath of cold or ice water can quickly lower your temperature.
  • Use evaporation cooling techniques can be used instead of immersion to lower body temperature. In this technique, cool water is misted on your skin while warm air fanned over your body causes the water to evaporate, cooling the skin.
  • Place ice packs to the groin, armpits, neck, and head have also been recommended.
  • Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.

We advise you to notify emergency services or consult your Doctor immediately, if heat stroke is suspected.

Article by: eDokita Team.


  1. Lisa R. Leon, Bryan G. Helwig. ‘Heat stroke: Role of the systemic inflammatory response’ Journal of Applied Physiology. Published 1 December 2010 109 no. 6, 1980-1988 DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00301.2010
  2. Melissa Conrad Stöppler, “Heat Stroke” Medicine Net, 2016
  3. Charles Patrick Davis, eMedicine health, 2016.
  4. WebMD, treatment and symptoms of Heat Stroke.

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