The bright sunny days of late summer are a great time to get outside and do your favorite activities.

However, rising temperatures also mean a higher risk for developing heat-related illnesses, including hyperthermia, or heat stroke. You can avoid the dangerous side effects of heat stroke by taking active measures to avoid too much exposure to the sun.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke, also referred to as “sunstroke,” is caused by the body overheating as a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures and is considered a medical emergency. Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat-related injury. If left untreated, it can cause serious damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles.

Signs and Symptoms

Overexertion and dehydration are the two main factors that lead to heat stroke. The telltale sign of heat stroke is having a core body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Although fainting is often the first physical sign, other symptoms include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lack of sweat, even when temperatures are extreme
  • Seizures
  • Muscle cramps or weakness

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms after spending time in the heat, seek emergency care immediately to avoid long-term damage to vital organs. 

Tips to Beat the Heat

On days when the heat index is high, the best way to prevent heat stroke is to simply stay in an air-conditioned environment. If you do need to go outside, follow these steps to avoid experiencing heat stroke or any other heat-related illness:

  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothes
  • Stay hydrated with water, as well as electrolyte-rich drinks to avoid salt depletion
  • Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as this can lead to dehydration
  • Reschedule outdoor exercise to cooler times of the day, such as early morning or after sunset

Keeping these tips in mind can help keep you safe when the heat index is high. However, if you do experience symptoms of heat stroke, don’t wait — seek emergency care immediately, as quick action can prevent serious injury. For non-life threatening cases or lingering symptoms, request an appointment with a Keck Medicine of USC physician, or call (800) USC-CARE.