Heatstroke: What you need to know

Heatstroke: What you need to know

Heatstroke is a very serious condition that can cause damage to the brain and even death. Here is what you need to know about it. 

Heatstroke /iStock

South Africa has been dealing with high temperatures the past few weeks. 

In some parts of the country, temperatures have been above 40 degrees Celsius.

On 11 January, SAWS warned that the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and Free State would experience a heatwave. 

This week, SAWS issued another warning that Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal would experience a heatwave.

One of the dangers of extreme high weather conditions is the potential exposure to heatstroke.

READ: India heatwave temperatures pass 50 Celsius

What is a heatstroke? 

Medical Centric defines heatstroke as an illness marked by an elevation in the body's temperature, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures. 

This causes the body's temperature to rise rapidly, up to 40 degrees Celsius or higher in a few minutes. 


Apart from hot weather conditions, Medical Centric says the following can put one at risk of getting heatstroke: strenuous work in hot weather or a heated room, dehydration, alcohol consumption, wearing excess clothing.


When your body overheats, it can cause serious health repercussions. 

These include damage to your brain or other internal organs such as the lungs, liver, muscles, digestive tracts, circulatory system, and kidneys. 

It can even result in death. 

This is why heatstroke is a medical emergency because if treatment is delayed, it can worsen the conditions or even result in death. 

READ: Two more heatstroke deaths in North West


- Nausea

- Seizures

- Confusion

- Disorientation

- Loss of consciousness / coma.

- Hot, dry, red skin 

- Profuse sweating

- Rapid breathing

- Headache

- Increased heart rate

-Muscle weakness

- Cramps

- Vomiting


It is extremely important to seek medical help because you may not understand the damage the heatstroke has caused. 

Your doctor will be able to run tests and correctly evaluate the damage the heatstroke has caused and give you the right treatment. 

The following are other recommended methods of treating heatstroke by Medical Centric and WebMD

- Immerse you in cold water

- Wrap you in a special cooling blanket

- Rehydrating

- Taking a cool shower or bath

- Cooling off with a fan or damp sheet

- Fan air over the patient while wetting their skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.

- Apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck, and back. 

READ: Heatstroke kills monkeys as India suffers in searing temperatures

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Disclaimer: Health-related information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat health problems. It is always advisable to consult with your doctor on any health-related issues.

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