Medical Emergency: Heat Stroke

Elderly at Risk

As the summer heat continues, it is advisable to be aware of the symptoms and risks associated with over-heating. Continuing our series of heat related health problems, we have been hightlighting elder hydration and nutrition. Today we outline the most serious, and possibly fatal form of heat injury, which is heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency — an abnormally elevated body temperature with accompanying physical symptoms including changes in the nervous system function. Heat stroke is often fatal if not promptly and properly treated. The body has overheated (severe hyperthermia) with temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important — especially during heat waves — to pay attention to the reported heat index (which is a measurement of the combination of humidity and air temperature.) For example, a relative humidity of 60% or more hampers the ability to evaporate sweat, which adversely effects bodily cooling. Heat-related illness and associated risks will dramatically increase when the heat index climbs to 90 degrees or above.

If you suspect that someone has heat stroke — also known as sunstroke — you should call 911 immediately and render first aid until paramedics arrive.

Heat stroke can kill or cause permanent damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it can also take a toll on healthy young athletes. (Heat stroke is not the same as a “stroke”, which is a general term used to describe decreased oxygen flow to an area of the brain.) The body’s cooling system (dissipation of heat through the skin or by sweating) is not functioning properly, or has been overwhelmed by the physical exertion, heat and humidity present.

JD Miller

About JD Miller

John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. Phone: (781) 378-2164 Email: [email protected] Website:

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