Understanding Doctors’ Perception of Heatstroke and its Management

Heatstroke, also known as sunstroke is a predictable and preventable disease but also a medical emergency. It was long believed that heat strokes only rarely lead to permanent deficits and that convalescence is almost complete. However, various studies have shown that heatstroke can lead to permanent damage to so some functions of the body. This makes its treatment critical and necessitates immediate care.

Objective: Understanding doctors’ perception of heatstroke and its management

A total of 311 doctors participated in the survey, including 41% general practitioners, 34% others, 17% diabetologists, 3% pharmacologists, 3% paediatricians, and 2% dentists

  1. Around 29% of doctors responded that they often come across patients with heatstroke during summer

  2. A majority of doctors, 51% responded that they frequently encounter elderly with heatstroke

  3. A majority of doctors, 43% responded that they frequently encounter heatstroke in patients with hypertension

  4. Around 35% of doctors responded that vital organ damage is the most common complication of heatstroke

  5. Around 40% of doctors recommended that measuring serum electrolytes could eliminate other possibilities in the diagnosis of heatstroke

  6. A majority of doctors, 68% stated that lack of awareness of symptoms amongst patients is the most common barrier to the treatment of heatstroke

  7. Around 52% of doctors responded that increased body temperature post-exposure to a host environment is the most common symptom that helps with the diagnosis

  8. Around 35% of doctors recommended giving fluids for hydration if the person is conscious as first-aid for heatstroke

  9. Around 36% of doctors responded that heatstroke often occurred as a side-effect in patients receiving diuretics

  10. A majority of doctors, 48% recommend maintaining proper hydration as a precaution in people who are vulnerable to heatstroke

Our survey revealed that a majority of doctors frequently encounter elderly patients with heatstroke, this might be due to decreased capacity of the ageing body to adapt to temperature changes.

Hypertension was a commonly associated condition with heatstroke. Physicians should particularly look for signs of dehydration and heatstroke in vulnerable people. A majority of doctors responded that most of the patients were unaware of the symptoms of heatstroke, which was the major hurdle in treatment-. Primary care centres should strive to educate patients and their family members about the symptoms of heatstroke as immediate interventions are needed. Patients using diuretics were more vulnerable to heatstroke. Multiple studies have shown proper hydration and limited physical exertion in hot environments avoid heatstroke in such vulnerable patients. Doctors responded that giving fluids if the patient is conscious and cooling the person (with water, ice packs, etc.) are recommended first aids for heatstroke. First aid plays a vital role in heatstroke and the vulnerable patient’s family must be aware of the same.

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