Heatstroke: One of summer’s biggest dangers

Heatstroke: One of summer’s biggest dangers


  • Heatstroke is caused by the body overheating during periods of high temperature, thus impairing the brain’s ability to regulate body temperature.
  • Extended exposure to the sun or heat should be avoided because it can lead to the body overheating and the onset of heatstroke.
  • Should timely, appropriate treatment not be provided, heatstroke may cause brain damage, organ failure and even death.

The world is gradually getting hotter as a result of global warming, and temperatures in Thailand continue to soar each year.

Heatstroke is a dangerous condition that should not be overlooked. When the body overheats due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures it results in the brain being unable to regulate body temperature, which can cause the body to reach a potentially dangerous temperature greater than 40 degrees Celsius.

Normally, the body is able to cool itself down effectively through perspiration when it is exposed to heat, which is vital because the body needs to maintain a temperature between 36.5–37 degrees Celsius to function properly. However, when an imbalance occurs and the body reaches temperatures in excess of those mentioned above, it is considered to be in a state of heatstroke.

There are various levels of heatstroke depending on severity, with symptoms ranging from swelling and rashes to cramps and exhaustion. In serious cases, patients may even faint, so any treatment, to be effective, must be timely and appropriate to the individual’s circumstances.

Symptoms of heatstroke

There is a range of symptoms of heatstroke:

  • Cramps
  • Redness in the face and increasing body temperature
  • Extreme thirst, dizziness, and headaches
  • Feeling faint
  • Nausea, shallow breathing, and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • A lack of perspiration despite hot temperatures
  • Dilated pupils, reduced sensitivity, fainting, or a seizure

If the above symptoms are not treated in a timely and appropriate manner, they can lead to heart failure and death. Heatstroke differs from heat exhaustion in that there is a lack of perspiration when suffering from heatstroke. To treat individuals who have lost consciousness from heatstroke, efforts should be made to immediately lower their body temperature, and they should be taken to the hospital promptly or emergency services should be called at 1669. This is because prolonged overheating can severely impact organ function and potentially cause a range of other complications, such as arrhythmia, low blood pressure, myocardial hemorrhage, pulmonary edema, pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, acute kidney (renal) failure, seizure, or liver failure.

Groups most susceptible to heatstroke include:

  • The elderly
  • Infants
  • Those who do not get sufficient sleep
  • Those who consume alcohol to excess
  • Those exposed to heat through their jobs
  • Patients with underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity
  • Athletes and soldiers in training, who have not yet trained their bodies to withstand prolonged heat exposure

Basic first aid

Patients suffering from heatstroke should be given urgent medical care, with the main objective of lowering core body temperature.

Basic first aid for patients suspected of experiencing heatstroke comprises removing them from the sun, placing them in a shady, cool environment and attempting to bring their body temperature under control. This can be achieved using a range of techniques, including removing clothing, raising their legs, sprinkling their body with water and fanning them. A cool, damp cloth or an ice pack may be placed around their neck and at the armpits with the same result. Someone should immediately call for medical attention or an ambulance.

Preventing heatstroke

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun or heat as that is what causes the body to overheat. Over exerting yourself in such conditions can lead to dehydration, which should also be avoided through regular consumption of water (at least 2 liters per day – equivalent to about 8 glasses of water).
  • If you feel like you are beginning to overheat, cool yourself down with a cool shower, sitting in front of a fan, or turning on air conditioning if available. If you are required to work outside, be sure to wear a hat and other clothing designed to protect you from the sun.
  • Wear loose, light clothing to help keep your body cool.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks as these are diuretics that can easily cause dehydration and an electrolyte deficiency.
  • Avoid direct sunlight during the hottest time of the day. Avoid sitting inside a car during this time, even with the windows open and parked in the shade, because vehicles heat up extremely quickly.
Sign up

Already have an account?