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Heat Stroke: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Sep 30, 2023

What is the treatment?

Heat exhaustion, sunstroke, heat prostration, heat hyperpyrexia and insolation.

How is the treatment done?

Heatstroke is a condition where your body gets overheated due to prolonged exposure in high temperatures or physical exertion. Serious heat strokes can occur if the body temperature shoots up to 40 degrees C (104 F) or higher. This condition is very common during the summer season. If you experience a heat stroke, it is important to get an emergency treatment as soon as possible. Heatstroke that goes untreated can damage your muscles, kidneys, heart and brain. The damage can worsen if the treatment is delayed. In severe cases, heat strokes can also lead to death or serious medical conditions. Heat stroke can have symptoms such as, a high body temperature, altered behaviour or mental state, alteration in sweating, vomiting, nausea, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate and headache. Heat strokes can have a variety of causes such as exposure to a very hot environment, wearing too much clothing, drinking alcohol, not staying hydrated, etc. Heat strokes are also caused due to extremely strenuous activity. This is because during excessive physical exertion, there is an increase in body temperature.

There are plenty of ways to prevent a heat stroke, some of which include, wearing lightweight clothes (preferably cotton), protecting your skin from a sunburn, drinking a lot of fluids, staying hydrated, avoiding staying outdoors for long hours during summers and preventing excessive strenuous physical activity. If a person experiences a heat stroke, then rehydration is the best treatment to cure it.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

During a heat stroke, our body becomes dehydrated due to a sudden increase in the body temperature. Fluids and electrolytes are loss, so during a heat stroke, lost fluids and electrolytes should be administered in the patient’s body. For children and infants who are dehydrated, heat stroke can be prevented by giving them oral rehydration solutions which contain water and salts. Before the treatment, heat stroke is diagnosed by the doctor on the basis of your physical symptoms. If you are dehydrated, then you will have a low blood pressure, a faster heart rate and a reduced blood flow. Blood tests will be taken to see the level of electrolytes especially potassium and sodium. A urinalysis is also performed to test the degree of dehydration that has affected you. This test is also done to check any symptoms of kidney damage or bladder infection.

For extremely young children, rehydration can be done with the help of a syringe, older children can consume diluted drinks which has more amount of water. Adults who experience moderate dehydration can be given lots of liquids and soft drinks. During a heat stroke, aerated drinks should be avoided as they don’t help much for rehydration, instead coconut water is beneficial. Patients who are severely dehydrated and unconscious should be cured immediately by admitting them to a hospital. In such cases, fluids and salts have to be administered intravenously (through the vein) with the help of an IV drip.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Rehydration is usually done when people suffer from mild to severe heat strokes. A high body temperature, headache, racing heart, rapid breathing, nausea are signs that rehydration is necessary. This form of treatment is suitable for both children as well as adults. If the heat stroke is extremely serious and the patient is unconscious then it is advisable to admit him/her in the hospital where they will be given fluids intravenously.


Are there any side effects?

Rehydration is the best option to treat a heat stroke, however a person might not have to consume fluids directly during a heat stroke. Putting the person in a tub of cool water, wetting a towel and putting it on the person’s head, fanning the person or spraying them with a garden hose is also different forms of rehydration techniques that can be used for mild forms of heat strokes.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

People suffering from a heat stroke are also given oral rehydration therapy which includes giving oral solution to replenish and rehydrate their system. However, you should consult a doctor before this treatment to test for any allergic reaction. This solution should also be avoided if you have any perforation (tear) in the bowel region or any blockage in the intestines. Other than these there are no harmful side effects or complications of rehydration therapy. It is the safest way to treat and prevent heat strokes.

How long does it take to recover?

All organs and cells in the human body need water for normal functioning, however too much rehydration is not healthy. After rehydrating your body by consuming water, your symptoms of a heat stroke will gradually lessen as your body temperature starts to decrease. It is not recommended to drink too much water without proper intervals as it can cause nausea and you might even vomit. So after a heat stroke, you should still use evaporation cooling techniques to bring your body temperature to normal.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

When a person experiences a heat stroke, it is important to give him/her immediate medical attention. After receiving rehydration, the person however comes back to consciousness in a few minutes or hours. It takes very little time for recovery as rehydration is the easiest and fastest way to treat heat strokes.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The price of the treatment is anywhere between Rs.2.75 to Rs.10,000.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

The results of this treatment are more or less permanent. However, after rehydration there is no guarantee that one will be immune to the future probability of heat strokes. It is important to take preventive measures to keep your body temperature balanced to avoid heat strokes.


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Written ByDr. Pranjit Mushahary MBBS,MD(medicine),MD - Internal MedicineGeneral Physician
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