What you need to know about heatstroke

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With temperatures that occasionally soar as high as 45 degrees Celsius and sky-high humidity levels, Bangkok’s climate poses a serious health risk to children and pregnant women. As kids head outside for the summer months, parents should take precautions to make sure that their child does not suffer from heatstroke. Expecting mothers should take extra precautions to avoid potentially harming their fetus.


Heatstroke occurs when the body’s internal temperature begins to climb uncontrollably. Normally, the human body is remarkably good at dispersing heat and maintaining a stable temperature. In extreme situations though, such as when the body is exhausted, the temperature is too high, or there aren’t enough internal fluids to fuel create sweat, the system can become overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, many systems within the body are designed to function within that very narrow temperature range. When it gets too hot, certain catalysts and enzymes stop working, causing immediate problems in the muscles, kidneys, brain and heart. Heatstroke can escalate quickly and, if not dealt with properly, can cause permanent damage and even death.

In the case of pregnant mothers, the added stress to the system could have a disastrous impact, including preterm labor. To make matters worse, it takes much more energy to cool a pregnant woman’s core down to an acceptable temperature. This means that a pregnant woman will need longer to stabilize once she becomes overheated. Pregnant women also dehydrate fairly easily, due to the extra demands the growing child places on a woman’s body.

As scary as it is, the good news is that heatstroke is 100 percent preventable. Here are some things you should know to keep out of harm’s way this summer.

What you can do to avoid heatstroke:

● Never wait inside or leave a child unattended in a hot car. Tempting though it is to ask your child to wait while you step inside for “just a minute” or two, or to sit in the car while your partner ducks into the 7-Eleven, this isn’t a situation where you want to take chances. With all of its glass and metal surfaces, a car acts like a miniature greenhouse. It’s so effective at retaining heat that the temperature can climb by up to 6 degrees C in just 10 minutes, especially in an unforgiving climate like Bangkok’s.

● Avoid intense physical exercise during the hottest parts of the day. Most sports teams in Bangkok are fairly wary about this, but it’s still something to keep an eye on. If you have a child, they should not be practicing for hours in the middle of the day. If they participate in outdoor activities, they should have regular water and rest breaks. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel that a child’s team or school isn’t doing this adequately. Similarly, pregnant mothers should stick to the shade or the air-con when the sun is at its zenith. Moderate, low-impact exercise is generally safe while pregnant, but not in intense heat.

● Wear breathable clothing. Billowy, synthetic fabrics may be all the rage, but most of them are useless at dispersing heat. If you have children, make sure you buy them practical clothes in breathable fabrics such as cotton, ideally in lighter colors. Pregnant women should follow similar advice. There’s no reason to slavishly follow fashion trends at the expense of safety.

● Drink water throughout the day. As previously mentioned [LINK TO EE14], Thailand’s high humidity means that children and adults often don’t feel thirsty, even when they really are. Make drinking water part of your routine. If you are currently pregnant, you should be drinking even more water to support your increased blood volume.

What to watch out for:

● Flushed faces and panting. Don’t write these off as normal effects of high temperatures.

● A lack of sweat. As sweat evaporates, it takes heat from the skin and disperses it. When there aren’t enough fluids to produce sweat, your cooling system isn’t working properly.

● Dizziness, nausea and, in extreme cases, vomiting. When a person’s internal temperature begins to soar, they may feel disorientated and physically ill. Vomiting worsens the situation by dehydrating the body even further.

● Temperature of 40 degrees C. If someone’s temperature is this high, seek medical attention immediately. Try not to let them lose consciousness.

What to do in an emergency:

● Apply ice packs to the victim’s body. This is most effective on sensitive areas such as the neck, joint, back and—unpleasant though it may be—groin area.

● Mist cool water over the victim’s skin. This acts more or less in the same way that sweat does. The water will draw heat from a body as it evaporates, reducing their overall temperature.


Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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