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General characteristics

General characteristics

Heatstroke (hyperthermia) or sunstroke is a dangerous condition whereby the body temperature rises rapidly and overheats the body beyond 104 F (40 C). It can be fatal if not treated appropriately by means of cooling, rest and hydration.

It usually occurs when undertaking strenuous work or exercise in the sun/heat, especially when not acclimatised properly. It is more common in the elderly, under4's, people on medications, in the overweight, when the body's cooling mechanism is impaired, as a result of profuse sweating, dehydration and low fluid intake, those with health problems like heart disease and diabetes and very humid hot weather conditions.

Symptoms may begin with signs of heat exhaustion such as dizziness, sweating, muscle cramps, headaches, high temperature, weakness and nausea and then progress into the more serious symptoms of heatstroke which include very high temperature, rapid shallow breathing, a lack of sweating, reddened dry or cool and moist skin, confusion, agitation, vomiting, strange drunken like behaviour, hallucinations, chest pain, person may feel icy cold, rapid pulse and may progress to seizures or coma. The blood pressure may initially be raised and then fall as if the person is in physical shock.

For severe heatstroke phone for an ambulance immediately. Meanwhile, move the person to a cool shaded location, remove clothes and put cold or ice packs under the armpits and groin, spray the skin with cool water and fan them to encourage evaporation and mimic the action of sweating.

The best way to avoid heatstroke is to drink plenty of fluids, avoid physical exercise or being in the sun and acclimatise gently before doing any physical activity.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Drink plenty of water all through the day, particularly if moving around or out in the sun.

Do not smoke as it constricts the blood vessels and prevents cooling mechanisms from working efficiently.

Eat plenty of watery fruits such as melon and mango.

Drink tomato juice to maintain potassium levels.

Grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed) contains sugars and electrolytes (salts) so drink at the first signs of heat exhaustion.

Include plenty of raw onions in your daily salads to help keep the body cool.

Don't drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks in the heat.

Eat regular, light meals and avoid heavy starchy meals in the heat. Go for complex carbohydrates rather than simple ones like white flour products. Avoid big, heavy meals and overeating at mealtimes.

Add salt to your meals (especially if not used to the heat) as salt helps keep the body cool.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Drinking ice cold or cool peppermint tea during the first signs of heat exhaustion can help to keep the body cool as peppermint is a natural refrigerant.

Lemon balm and cleavers tea helps to cool and relax the body.

Yarrow and boneset tea will induce sweating and lower the temperature. Drink plenty of plain water after this tea to replace the fluids lost through sweating.

Dandelion root has a heat clearing action and can be taken as a tea or tincture to reduce the symptoms of excessive heat.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Get aerobically fit before going to hot countries. Being fit protects the body from becoming overheated.
Wear loose clothing in the heat and a wide brimmed hat to protect the head, neck and shoulders. Don't expose your skin to the sun as overheating is more likely to occur.

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