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Heat Stroke

Understand the cause, symptoms and treatments of heat stroke symptoms


Heat stroke occurs when your body can no longer regulate its temperature. This can happen when you are exposed to high temperatures (>40.0 °C (104.0 °F)) for a prolonged period, or if you engage in strenuous exercise in hot weather. Factors that can increase the probability of having heat stroke include:

  • Exposure to high temperatures: Spending time in hot and humid environments, especially without adequate hydration, can increase the risk of heat stroke
  • Exertion in hot weather: Engaging in physical activity, such as exercise or manual labour, in hot weather can cause the body to overheat and increase the risk of heat stroke
  • Certain medications: Certain medications, such as diuretics and antihistamines, can make the body more susceptible to heat stroke
  • Health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, can increase the risk of heat stroke
  • Age and gender: Older adults and women are more susceptible to heat stroke due to changes in their bodies' ability to regulate temperature
  • Cultural factors: Some cultural practices, such as wearing heavy clothing or head coverings, can increase the risk of heat stroke in certain populations


The symptoms of heat stroke can vary from person to person. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include:

  • High body temperature (above 40°C (104.0 °F))
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness



If you suspect someone has heat stroke, it's essential to act fast. Here are some tips for heat stroke management:

  • Moving to a cooler environment: If possible, move to an air-conditioned or shaded area
  • Removing excess clothing: Remove unnecessary clothing to allow heat to escape from the body
  • Drink cool water or other fluids to replenish lost fluids for rehydration
  • Cooling the body by applying cold, wet towels or taking a cool bath to lower the body's temperature
  • Fan the person or spray them with cool water
  • Place ice packs or cool towels on the person's neck, armpits, and groin
  • Call for emergency medical assistance immediately

Mild heat stroke symptoms can be treated by rehydration and rest in a cool, shaded place. However, severe cases of heat stroke require immediate medical attention (call 999) as they can lead to serious complications such as organ failure and brain damage.

Prevention Tips

Here are some additional tips to help avoid heat stroke:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, especially water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes, to help replace the fluids lost through sweating
  • Dress appropriately: Wear lightweight, light-coloured, and loose-fitting clothing that allows air to circulate
  • Stay in a cool environment: Seek out air-conditioned spaces or use fans to keep cool. If you don't have access to air conditioning, take cool showers or baths, or use wet towels to cool down
  • Bring an umbrella: Always bring an umbrella with UV protection to shield and avoid direct exposure to the sunlight
  • Limit outdoor activities: Avoid spending too much time outside during the hottest part of the day, typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Take breaks: Take frequent breaks in a cool, shaded area if you must be outside for extended periods.
  • Be mindful of medications: Certain diuretics and antihistamines can increase your risk of heat stroke. Consult your doctor to see if any medications affect your heat tolerance
  • Beware of the heat stroke risks: Certain people have a higher risk of having heat stroke

Information provided by:

Dr Jonathan Foster headshot

Dr Jonathan Foster

Specialist in Family Medicine, OT&P Healthcare

Please note that all medical articles featured on our website have been reviewed by qualified healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for a personal consultation with a qualified medical professional on the reader's medical condition.