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Heat Stroke Symptoms & Treatment

What is exertional heat stroke?

  • Life-threatening medical emergency
  • Body's temperature is too high
  • Left untreated, exertional heat stroke results in death due to organ damage across all body systems (liver, kidney, brain, etc.)
  • Until medical help arrives, the key is to immediately lower elevated body temperature
  • EHS is different from classic heat stroke, which usually effects children and the elderly during prolonged hot weather.

Exertional heat stroke symptoms

  • Excessively high rectal temperature (over 104 degrees)(oral, axillary, tympanic, and temporal measurements are innacurate and cannot be trusted)
And any or all of the following:
  • Erratic pulse (strong and rapid or weak and rapid)
  • Lack of coordination
  • Collapse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness and/or seizure¬†
  • Shock
  • Irritability, confusion, disorientation
  • Sweaty skin that may be red/flushed or pale

Risk factors

Exertional heat stroke: treatment

Rapid and aggressive whole-body cooling is the key to survival of EHS

  • Call 911
  • Remove excessive clothing
  • Ice-water or cold-water immersion
  • When not feasible, immediate and continual dousing with water (either from a hose, multiple water containers or shower) combined with fanning and continually rotating cold, wet towels on head and neck until immersive cooling can occur.
  • After cooling, transportation to medical facility for monitoring of possible organ damage.

Return to play

  • Medical clearance advised
  • Avoid exercise for minimum of one (1) week after release from medical care
  • Gradual increase in exercise level under supervision of qualified health care professional (doctor, ATC)

Revised  August 8, 2011; reviewed July 21, 2016




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