Heat Stroke Symptoms and Prevention During Exercise

Heat Stroke Prevention
Heat Stroke Prevention. picturegarden / Getty Images

Even the most highly conditioned athletes can become victims of heat stroke if they don't take special precautions when exercising in hot, humid weather. Heat stroke is the most serious of all heat-related conditions and it should be treated as a medical emergency. Insert/Remove Numbered List

Other conditions common in the heat like heat cramps, and heat exhaustion are less serious and generally require less drastic measures of treatment than heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency in which the body's cooling systems stop working and the core temperature can rise to dangerous levels.

Heat Stroke Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin, lack of sweating, a very fast pulse, confusion and perhaps seizures or coma. If untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.

Heat Stroke and Exercise

Athletes generally suffer a slightly different type of heat stroke called exertional heat stroke. In exertional heat stroke, victims continue to sweat, despite the increased core temperature.

For athletes, the diagnosis of heat stroke is made with a core temperature above 105 F and mental status changes, such as confusion, disorientation and clumsiness. You may collapse and go into a coma if symptoms are ignored. If any of these symptoms of heat stroke are present, emergency treatment and cooling the patient immediately is essential.

Heat Stroke Treatment

Treating heat stroke immediately is essential to avoiding life-threatening complications. Stop activity and follow the Heat Stroke Treatment Guidelines. If exercising in hot conditions and you feel a headache coming on, or you feel weak, dizzy or nauseated, stop exercising and seek a cool, shaded place.

Drink cool water. Take a cool shower or bath, jump in a lake or river of find a garden hose and cool off.

Heat Stroke Prevention

Preventing heat stroke begins with preventing heat exhaustion. This includes acclimating to hot conditions slowly, staying well-hydrated with proper hydration and avoiding exercise during the hottest part of the day. Hydrate well before and during exercise and replace lost electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium with food or a sports drink (drink 16 to 20 oz/hour).

Wear light, loose clothing. Or wear clothes made with wicking fabrics such as CoolMax®, Drymax®, Smartwool or polypropylene. These fibers have tiny channels that wick the moisture from your skin to the outer layer of the clothing where it can evaporate more easily. Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn, which can limit the skin's ability to cool itself.

If you notice any of the symptoms of heat illness, stop activity and seek a cool shaded place. Remember, it is easier to prevent heat illness than to treat it once symptoms develop.


Barrow MW, Clark KA. Heat-related illnesses. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. American Family Physician. Sept 1, 1998.

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