Heatstroke Signs: When to Go to the Emergency Room

Heatstroke is the most severe type of heat-related illness, and it can happen when your body is unable to control its temperature. That’s when heatstroke signs may emerge.

Although Minnesota isn’t a state known for extreme heat—even in the thick of the summer months—the potential for heatstroke applies to anyone, anywhere. Your body is a vessel of organic systems that may or may not function optimally, depending on a variety of factors. Simply feeling like you’re too hot or veering toward panic will never do you good.

Take a moment to learn about heatstroke signs that need to be addressed—and know that there’s a 24-hour Emergency Room (ER) nearby that can help treat heatstroke.

Examples of Heatstroke Signs

Your body has some heat-regulation abilities, such as sweating, to help you stay cool. But if you’re exposed to high temperatures—or overexerting yourself during intense exercise—your body temperature may soar to dangerous, life-threatening levels. We’re talking escalations to 106 F or higher (typically within 10 to 15 minutes).

Heatstroke signs may include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Confusion or changes to your mental state
  • Dizziness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech

However, keep in mind that heatstroke signs may differ from person to person, and the risk for heatstroke increases in older adults, people who are overweight or underweight, and people with chronic medical conditions.

Heat exhaustion is another type of heat-related illness that can have similar symptoms as heatstroke, but it’s a milder condition. Heat exhaustion is your body’s response to overheating and water and salt depletion.

Still, when in doubt, go to the ER.

Heatstroke Signs: What Should You Do?

Heatstroke can cause brain damage or organ failure—and sometimes death—if it isn’t treated as soon as possible at an ER. It’s a condition that needs to be taken seriously. Certain cases of heatstroke can even bring about medical complications, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome and liver dysfunction.

Make sure to follow these steps when heatstroke signs appear:

  • Call 911 immediately and remove any clothing that may be aggravating the overheating.
  • Move to an air-conditioned area, if possible—or anywhere that’s in the shade, away from the sun or heat source.
  • Lie down—while elevating your legs, if you can—and place a cold, wet washcloth, sponge or towel on your skin.
  • Try to remain calm and sip ice water while waiting for the emergency medical services to arrive.

Additionally, heatstroke can come on suddenly, too. Call 911 and go to an ER if you or someone else is feeling disoriented, hallucinating or acting erratic, for example, switching from a confused to an aggressive state.

[H2] How to Keep Your Cool

First and foremost, drink lots of water, regularly, throughout the day—especially if you’re going to spend an extensive amount of time in the sun or if you’re planning on doing an intense workout. You should also:

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks since both can speed up dehydration.
  • Eat hydrating foods, such as fruits, salads, smoothies and chilled soups—like this vibrant, summery gazpacho.
  • Monitor the temperature outside and stay inside in properly air-conditioned settings if the weather is sweltering.
  • If you need to be outside, take frequent breaks in a shaded area.
  • Wear a comfortable hat and light—both in weight and color—clothing. Loose, reflective clothing is best.
  • Place ice packs on your neck and underarms.
  • Take refreshing showers or cold baths.

We’re Here to Help

Any heatstroke signs need to be treated as an emergency. Call 911 right away to get emergency assistance as fast as possible. Meanwhile, River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic also has a convenient Urgent Care Clinic to attend to minor summertime injuries and ailments, such as allergies, sunburns, insect bites and poison ivy.

Curious about when to go to the ER and when to opt for urgent care? Then check out our ER/urgent care guide to point you in the right direction.

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