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What Are The Causes Of Heatstroke?

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by China Logarta · Updated Aug 31, 2022

    What Are The Causes Of Heatstroke?

    The body is an amazing thing. Normally, the body can regulate temperature on its own. When it’s cold, we generate heat by shivering. When it’s hot, we cool down our bodies when the sweat evaporates from our skin. But sometimes, it gets too hot and the sweat doesn’t cool fast enough to cool our bodies. Heatstroke happens when the body’s core temperature exceeds 40°C (104°F), which is especially dangerous in places where temperatures surpass 40°C– including the Philippines. With our kids out and about, it’s important to know the causes of heatstroke and learn how to avoid this medical emergency, especially as the summer months approach.

    What is heat illness?

    Heat cramps are painful muscle cramps in the legs, arms, and belly while doing strenuous activities in extreme heat. Because sweat is composed of water and salts, sweating during the activity can cause cramps. This is often a precursor to a more serious heat-related illness, so it’s really important to address these. 

    What are the causes of heatstroke?

    Hot, humid weather

    The Philippines is a tropical country, and during the hot and dry seasons (what we call summer), the heat index can shoot up. According to a news report, the highest recorded heat index was 51 degrees Celsius. The humidity also makes it more difficult for the sweat to evaporate from the skin and thereby cool down the skin.

    Heavy exercise in hot weather

    The act of exercising actually increases your core body temperature and when you pair this activity with high temperature, it can spur on heat illness. It’s one of the main causes of heatstroke, and so, even professional athletes need to be careful. Our kids enjoy playing sports or games outdoors, which brings us to our next point.


    One of the very real consequences of hot weather is dehydration. Losing as little as 1.5% of your body’s water content can produce symptoms. When you feel thirsty, you must immediately drink fluids. Apart from preventing heatstroke, water has a vast range of functions: delivers oxygen to different parts of the body, aids digestion, lubricates the joints, and makes saliva, among others. Needless to say, the loss of fluids within the body affects many bodily functions.

    Overexposure to the sun

    Summer is a time to get out and do different activities, like playing sports, hitting the beach or poolside, or even going hiking to commune with nature. People who work outdoors – like construction workers and seamen, for instance – are also at higher risk for heat illness. Make sure that your child is wearing sun-appropriate attire: loose clothing, visors or caps, arm sleeves, rubber shoes, and similar clothes.

    These are just some causes of heatstroke, but the main thing is to remember to drink lots of fluids, and seek shelter from the sun every now and then. Learn first aid here. Children, in particular, have higher chances of getting heatstroke because they sweat less, have a higher surface-area-to-body-mass ratio and they take longer to acclimatize to the environment.

    What signs and symptoms should I look out for?

    The way to be sure a heatstroke is happening is to check the body temperature with a thermometer and see a reading above 40°C (104°F). Aside from a high temperature, watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Warm, flushed skin
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness
  • Sometimes, convulsions and high fevers (sometimes as high as 41 degrees Celsius) are effects of a heatstroke.

    Key Takeaway

    Our kids love the outdoors; but we have to watch out for them, especially on hot days. Sun exposure, dehydration, exertive activities like sports, as well as the humidity and high temperature are all causes of heatstroke.

    Kids are more prone to heatstroke for having a higher surface-area-to-body-mass-ratio, less sweating, and slower adaptation to the environment. This commonly happens in countries like the Philippines, but we can prevent these by identifying symptoms when we see them and following a few key ‘rules’.

    We, together with our kids, should constantly rehydrate, wear protective clothing and sunscreen, and seek shelter from the sun every now and then. Summer can be fun – and safe.

    Learn more about Healthy Habits here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by China Logarta · Updated Aug 31, 2022

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