Heat Stroke and Dehydration
How to Prevent Them

Heat stroke is quite common, especially in warmer climates and seasons. And a common cause is dehydration.

We lose body water each day through sweat, urine, breathing, and stools, regardless of the climate.

Dehydration occurs when we experience abnormal depletion of body fluids and/or a lack of water intake.

In addition, according to the Merck Manual, lost body fluids contain electrolytes (electrically charged minerals) in varying concentrations.

Thus, water loss is always accompanied by electrolyte loss.

Both water and electrolytes (especially sodium and potassium) are critical for proper hydration.

What Is Heat Stroke?

Heat stroke is a condition in one's body caused by overheating and requires emergency treatment. It usually occurs as a result of physical activity in high temperatures or by prolonged exposure.

Without proper treatment, a heat stroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic staff.

Under normal circumstances, our bodies generate internal heat and we keep ourselves cool primarily through sweating.

However, when we are physically active in the sun with high heat or humidity for intense or prolonged periods of time, our bodies’ cooling system can start to shut down.

Dehydration is a major cause of the inability of the body to produce enough sweat, and most people are chronically dehydrated.

Thus, when we are already dehydrated and then are physically active in the hot sun or heat, our risk for heat-related illness increases significantly.

Common Symptoms

When the body cannot cool itself effectively, the internal body heat rises to dangerously high levels, causing heat exhaustion.

Just a few of the symptoms include the following:

  • Dizziness or headache
  • Sluggishness or extreme fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat or blurred vision
  • Hot, dry skin
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Hallucinations or loss of consciousness
  • Very high body temperature 


How to Treat Heat Stroke

Immediate treatment is critical since it can cause permanent organ damage, or even death.

The specialists in the news reports I watched advised cooling down the person while waiting for help to arrive. A few of their suggestions for immediate help included:

  • Apply ice and/or cool water to the skin of the person
  • Get the person indoors or at least in the shade
  • Help the person into a cold shower or tub if possible
  • Have the person lie down in a cool area
  • Encourage the person to drink clean water or electrolyte enhanced water.


How to Prevent

Prevention is always going to be more effective than treatment. The following are steps you can take to prevent dehydration and heat stroke, especially if you are active and live in one of the warmer climates:

  • Drink at least one-half to three-fourths your body weight in ounces of water.
  • Increase water intake if you are exercising outdoors or sweating heavily.
  • Avoid drinking coffee, tea, alcohol, soda and alcohol as these beverages are dehydrating.
  • Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing in light colors.
  • Schedule your physical outdoor activities during the early morning or later evening when it is cooler.
  • Drink electrolyte enhanced water before, during, and after physical activity lasting more than 60 minutes.
  • Take frequent water breaks (every 15 minutes or so).
  • Elderly and children should be protected from the sun by wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen and using some type of sunshade, such as an umbrella.


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Reference

MayoClinic.org: Heatstroke: Definition; 2014.


Related Articles

Proper Hydration Basics for Sports and Fitness

How to Replenish Electrolytes in the Body After Exercise

Sports Dehydration in Children



Return from Dehydration and Heat Stroke to Dehydration Effects 


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