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)
- Erratic pulse (strong and rapid or weak and rapid)
- Lack of coordination
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness and/or seizure
- Irritability, confusion, disorientation
- Sweaty skin that may be red/flushed or pale
- Vigorous activity in hot/humid weather, usually lasting longer than an hour.
- Lack of heat acclimatization
- Poor physical fitness
- Sleep deprivation
- Fever or illness
- "Warrior" mentality
- High pressure to perform
- Heavy equipment/uniform
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