The first step in treating heat stroke is to reduce body temperature by cooling the body from the outside. This can be done by removing tight or unnecessary clothing, spraying the person with water, blowing cool air on the person, or wrapping the person loosely in wet sheets. Alternatively, ice packs can be placed at the neck, groin and armpits to accelerate cooling.
If these methods do not lower body temperature enough, a doctor may try to lower temperature from the inside by flushing the stomach or rectum with cold water. Severe cases may require cardiopulmonary bypass, in which the person's blood is diverted from the heart and lungs into a collection machine, cooled, and then returned to the body.
In some cases, anti-seizure or muscle-relaxing medications may be given to control convulsions and shivering. Aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) do not help lower body temperature when a person has heat stroke, and these medications should be avoided if heat stroke is suspected.
People with heat stroke generally need to be hospitalized so they can be tested for complications that may appear after the first day. One common complication is muscle breakdown caused by the heat. In this condition, called rhabdomyolysis, byproducts of the muscle breakdown appear in the bloodstream and can damage the kidneys.
Page 6 of 9 Next Page: Heat Stroke (Hyperthermia) When to Call A Doctor
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.
You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.