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7 Sure Signs You’re Having a Heat Stroke

by Staci Marks on June 25, 2012

With the summer solstice behind us, summer has officially kicked in, and so has the heat. Skyrocketing temperatures throughout the next couple of months may inspire us to seek shelter in the pool or under a cabana, snacking on cold treats like popsicles and chilled mugs of beer. During the summer, it is extremely important to stay hydrated and cool off in the shade or air conditioning from time to time. Too much exposure to the heat without respite may cause heat exhaustion, dehydration, and even heat stroke. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be at risk for heat stroke and should cool off as soon as possible.

  1. Difficulty breathing

    Any breathing irregularity combined with the heat should be quickly evaluated. Your breathing during a heat stroke might be deep or shallow, erratic, and will feel difficult or painful. It may feel as though you are hyperventilating. If you’re in a hot environment and are partaking in strenuous activity or unable to cool off, labored breathing is a strong warning sign of a heat stroke. When your organs become overheated, they don’t work as well. This applies to your lungs, too.

  2. High body temperature

    If you’re concerned that you’re having a heat stroke, take note of your body’s actual temperature. In essence, a heat stroke is hyperthermia, or abnormally high body temperature. If the thermometer reads that your temperature is above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to take immediate action to get your temperature back down. Retreat to a cool place, drink plenty of water, or take a cold shower — anything to lower your body temperature, as excessively high fevers can lead to a coma or death.

  3. Racing heartbeat

    In the event of a heat stroke, your pulse may be abnormally high. This is because your heart is working overtime to cool down your body. The stress placed on the heart produces a rapid heart rate, at or exceeding 130 beats per minute. The heart usually functions at around 60 to 100 beats per minute. You might suspect you’re having a heart attack, because the sensations and symptoms have similarities.

  4. Muscle cramps

    During a heat stroke, you may experience heat cramps or other muscle irregularities. Your muscles may become rigid or go limp. Heat cramps are typically due to a lack of electrolytes, which can easily happen if you’re sweating excessively and not replenishing your lost nutrients. The dehydration causes you to be deficient in minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. The cramps may be painful and, in a heat stroke, might not disperse after resting and thus may require medical attention.

  5. Hot, but not sweating

    During a heat stroke, your flesh may be red, but your skin might feel dry to the touch rather than moist with sweat. This is because you’re so dehydrated that your body is unable to administer its usual cooling mechanism through sweat. High heat or humidity often disable your body’s natural sweating ability. Evaporation of sweat cools your body down, drawing heat from your blood to the surface of the skin. Thus, if you aren’t sweating but have a high temperature and feel physically hot, chances are you’re having a heat stroke.

  6. Seizures

    During a heat stroke, a person may experience a seizure, which is when the brain behaves abnormally, misfiring synapses. This can cause loss of consciousness, paralysis, spasms, or total stillness accompanied by a blank stare. A seizure involving a great deal of thrashing is often referred to as a grand mal fit, while a seizure without much movement is referred to as petit mal. The seizure in a heat stroke is often prompted by a high fever and usually only lasts a couple of minutes.

  7. Hallucinations or confusion

    As the heat stroke worsens, the individual may become confused or suffer from hallucinations. These neurological side effects happen as a result of stress on the brain. The person may have slurred speech and be unable to communicate well or understand you. The disorientation resulting from the heat is one of the most serious clues as to a heat stroke and the person should be rushed to the hospital or immediately cooled off and given fluids.

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