Understanding Heat Stroke

With temperatures reaching triple digits the past few weeks, it’s a good time to review the signs and symptoms of heat stroke verses heat exhaustion.

Heat stroke is the result of being extremely overheated and dehydrated. The dehydration is so severe that it decreases circulation to the brain, causing neurological problems and eventual organ failure. The process is rapid, but it is able to be stopped in certain stages.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Wall ThermometerProfuse sweating
  • Water depletion (causes extreme thirst)
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Salt depletion (causes muscle cramps)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Headache

Heat Stroke Symptoms

  • Body temperature greater than 104° F (main sign)
  • No sweating in hot weather
  • Neurological problems such as confusion, unconsciousness, and seizures
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate

Risk Factors

  • Hot, humid weather is the main contributing factor of heat stroke.
  • Children younger than four years old and adults age 65 and older are at risk because their bodies are unable to regulate temperature.
  • However, everyone is susceptible to heat stroke.


If someone is the victim of heat stroke, it is advisable to call emergency services for help, as heat stroke can be fatal if not treated. While waiting, people can care for the victim until help arrives by putting the person in an ice bath or placing bags of ice on the neck, armpits and groin, where many blood vessels are collected.

It is advised to take the victim into shade and give them proper forms of hydration like water or hydrating sports drinks. If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, they can recover by moving to cool environments and hydrating.


Heat stroke is preventable. Here are some tips to stay healthy in the heat:

  • Stay hydrated (non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages).
  • Know the day’s forecast (heat index and humidity).
  • Plan around the heat; try doing outdoor activities earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Wearing less clothing while doing outdoor activities may seem like a good idea to stay cool, but with that comes the risk of sunburn, another factor in heat stroke. Sun-damaged skin is not able to go through the process of keeping the body cool.

For More Information

When it comes to extreme temperatures, play it safe. Know the warning signs of heat stroke, and take the proper steps to prevent it. For more information, please call one of our OSF PromptCare locations.

About Author: Jamie Peel

Working as a Marketing Specialist at OSF St. Joseph, two days are never the same for Jamie Peel. However, one constant in Jamie's position is writing. She acts as the hospital's writer, working closely with clinical and non-clinical staff to offer up-to-date and reliable information regarding health trends, hospital updates, and more.

Jamie received her BS in Mass Media from Illinois State University and has a background in broadcast journalism which helps her tell stories for OSF St. Joseph every day.

This author is no longer writing for this blog.

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Categories: Brain & Spine