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Heatstroke is a dangerous heat-related illness where the body overheats and could no longer maintain a healthy body temperature. The elevated body temperature in heatstroke can result to organ damage.

It is important to note that heatstroke develops once the body temperature increases beyond 37 degrees C up to 40.5 degrees C. The condition requires immediate first aid care that aims on lowering the body temperature as rapidly as possible.

Possible causes of heatstroke

Heatstroke is brought about by prolonged exposure to heat. An individual can develop the condition both indoors or outdoors. The factors that increases the risk for developing this heat-related illness include the following:

  • Young children and elderly
  • Being overweight
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
    An individual with heatstroke might have rapid pulse rate and shallow breathing.
  • Working or exercising under warm conditions
  • Using certain medications
  • Chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease

What are the indications?

The typical signs and symptoms of heatstroke include the following:

  • Rapid pulse rate and shallow breathing
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abrupt rise in the body temperature
  • Dry, swollen tongue
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Dry, hot and possibly reddened skin without sweating
  • Loss of consciousness


Remember that heatstroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. While waiting for the emergency team to arrive, provide the individual with sips of cool fluid if possible and allow him/her to rest in a cool shaded area.

Lower the body temperature with the following measures:

  • Get rid of excess clothing
  • Spray or sponge water and fan the damp skin
  • If possible, immerse the individual in cool water.
  • Apply cold packs in the armpits, groin or back of the neck.

If the individual is unconscious, position him/her on the side with the mouth down and chin up to prevent suffocation.

Preventive measures

  • Drink plenty of water even if not thirsty.
  • Keep the body cool by avoiding direct exposure to the sun. Use a hat and wear lightweight, loose cotton clothes.
  • Make sure that the house is cool by using an air-conditioner.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on heatstroke is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize environmental emergencies including heatstroke by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.

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