United Hatzalah

Summer Safety Rules – Part 2: Heat Stroke

The definition of heat stroke is: damaged thermoregulation and elevated body temperature higher than 40 degrees Celsius. That is, the body absorbs and produces more heat than it can dissipate. In this situation, a person is not thirsty; he/she is hot and now is the time to pour water on him/her. There is no need to let him drink now.

Our body temperature must be kept at a constant level of about 37 degrees (it naturally deviates a bit up and down). When we do physical activity or eat, our bodies produce heat. In addition to the heat that our bodies produce we also absorb heat from the outside environment. In order to avoid the accumulation of too much heat, our bodies regulate temperature by “homeostasis” (maintaining a constant internal temperature even when the external temperature changes). This equilibrium causes heat to be emitted through perspiration, blood vessel expansion (this is why we turn red when we are hot), and acclimatization (the process in which the body adjusts itself to its environment).

When the homeostasis mechanism is not able to maintain a normal temperature and it increases significantly above normal, we are liable to fall into a dangerous situation, which is heat stroke. Our bodies are mostly made up of proteins which operate at a constant temperature. When our bodies heat up to a temperature that these proteins are not used to, we are harming their functional ability. The most important proteins that are damaged by heat stroke are those in the brain. Imagine that you put an egg into a frying pan. What will happen to the egg? It’ll turn into an omelet. That is also what happens to the brain in heat stroke and an omelet cannot turn back into an egg….

A person suffering from heat stroke (and it doesn’t matter what age) will be red, hot and damp, will walk in zigzags, will slur her words or not make sense, will feel nauseous and vomit, will have changes in behavior, and could even lose consciousness. Heat stroke is extremely dangerous and there is a chance of death of it is not treated in time!

When there is time, how can it be treated?

Undress the patient and pour large amounts of water on him (Note! In order to prevent choking, do NOT pour water over his face). Call for medical assistance as quickly as possible so they can cool the patient using their professional methods.

How can heat stroke be prevented?

If you are on a field trip, make sure to take a fifteen-minute break after every hour of walking in the shade. Keep an eye on young children who are not used to walking for long periods and need longer rest time. Make sure to drink a lot so that the body can produce sweat to cool itself down. Make sure young children aren’t carrying too much on their backs. If a member of the family had a fever during the week that the trip was to take place, he/she should not go on the trip (the same goes for a child who had diarrhea or vomiting before or during the trip).

And remember:

Dehydration = drink water

Heat stroke = pour water on the patient


And not vice versa!!


In case of emergency dial United Hatzalah at 1221

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