Heat Stroke Recovery, Treatment and Prevention

With summer comes heat across Central Arkansas and while that means fun at the lake or pool for many, it can also pose significant and lasting health risks to others. Chief among those is the risk of heat stroke. Exposure to high temperatures over an extended period of time can lead to heat stroke and other complications. In extreme cases, prolonged exposure to the heat can even cause brain cells to begin overheating, placing individuals at risk for lasting damage. That’s why everyone should understand the fundamentals of heat stroke recovery, treatment and prevention.

The Difference Between Stroke and Heat Stroke

Dr. Ali Krisht, director of the CHI St. Vincent Arkansas Neuroscience Institute, knows the causes, symptoms and treatment of stroke well. “I see every day, two or three strokes, believe it or not, in our emergency room,” he said. While both can lead to damaged brain cells, he notes that there is a significant difference between stroke and heat stroke. Instead of the extreme heat exposure that can lead to heat stroke, Dr. Krisht says, “I often describe stroke as a brain attack. A clot or bleeding blood vessel in the brain triggers the stroke and begins to starve the brain of oxygen.”

Despite the different causes, both stroke and heat stroke can lead to long lasting or even permanent damage to the brain. In heat stroke, that happens when a person’s body stays too hot for too long. With stroke, Dr. Krisht says that, “without that oxygen brain cells will begin to die within minutes and once they die, they cannot be replaced.” In Arkansas with a high prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses, it’s also possible for the conditions that lead to heat stroke to trigger the other kind of stroke as well.

Symptoms of a Heat Stroke

The first signs or symptoms of a heat stroke are often associated with confusion or fatigue. You could also feel sick to your stomach and like your heart is racing. That’s when you need to get in the shade, find a cool building and drink plenty of water to help your body cool down. You want to do whatever you can to cool your body and your brain down. In many cases, you’ll start to feel better after a few minutes in a cooler place. If that confusion and fatigue persists for too long, though, it may be time to visit an Emergency Room.

How to Treat Heat Stroke

For many, the best way to treat heat stroke is finding a cool place and bringing their body temperature down to safe levels. If brain cells were exposed to extreme heat for too long, though, treatment and recovery could take even longer. "It could take a few days for the cells to recover from the stress they've been exposed to," said Dr. Krisht. The important thing is recognizing when air conditioning and a cold glass of water are not helping. That’s a sign that you need additional medical assistance.

To learn more about brain health and how the Arkansas Neuroscience Institute strives to advance the field of neuroscience and improve treatments to tackle the most complex cases and improve patient outcomes, visit: chistvincent.com/ani