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Signs of Heatstroke Identified, Treatment Methods Recommended

Summer is a great time to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. There are some important precautions to take as we get into the hotter temperatures over the next few months. People who become overheated can have heat exhaustion and if not taken care of they can get heatstroke. Heatstroke can be fatal if not treated. People who are spending significant time in heat or working in the high temperature environments can experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Everyone is at a risk of heat exhaustion but elderly people, infants, children and those working outdoors are more likely and should be monitored. People taking certain medications may also have an issue with heat they may not have experienced before (discuss any medications with your provider or pharmacist). Watch for dizziness, fainting, headache, sweating, dehydration and changes in heart rate for heat exhaustion. The signs of heat stroke are just a bit different and require immediate medical attention. Signs to watch for include: a fever of 103-104°F, nausea, vomiting, seizures, lack of sweating, severe headaches and rapid pulse.

There are many warning signs of heat related illness. If you suspect someone is experiencing any of these get them medical attention as soon as possible.

Now that we know what exactly to be watching for it is important to know how to react appropriately and help someone having a heat illness.

If someone is experiencing heat exhaustion it is important to first get them out of the heat. Then have them drink fluids (no soda, alcohol or coffee), decrease their body temperature with cool water (avoid freezing water- it may cause shock), and seek medical attention if symptoms do not go away within 30-60 minutes.

Heatstroke is much more serious and requires calling 911 immediately if you suspect someone does have the signs. It is still important to get the person to a cool spot and remove any unnecessary layers of clothing. Place ice packs on the groin, armpit, neck and back to cool them down. Do not try to give them fluids - wait for medical personnel to give them IV fluids.

Avoiding heat exhaustion and heatstroke requires hydration, wearing cool clothing (in light colors), seeking out shade and taking action if any signs present.

Enjoy your time outside and keep cool! If you would like additional information, please visit

Alacia Cole is a PharmD Candidate at the University of Montana.


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