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Thread: Heat stroke

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  1. #13
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    If you just want your character to pass out on the roof after not getting enough sleep and working hard, it doesn't have to involve either heat stroke or heat exhaustion. (It can if you want, but doesn't have to!)

    Both heat stroke and heat exhaustion happen when the core body temperature is too high. I don't know Fahrenheit (sorry!) but in centigrade, the normal body temperature is around 37. Anything above 37.5 is high. If it's caused by an infection, it's fever (the body raises the temperature deliberately to help fight the infection). If it's caused by the environment, i.e. the body's trying to keep the temperature at 37 degrees, but it's too hot and can't lose the extra heat so the core body temperature goes up, then that's heat exhaustion. If it gets to 40 degrees, that's heat stroke. Centigrade degrees are bigger than Fahrenheit degrees. 38 is a low fever and 39 is a high fever. 40 is dial 999.

    It is totally plausible that someone could pass out in the circumstances described while their core body temperature is still 37 degrees (i.e. not have heat exhaustion or heat stroke). When you exercise, you feel hot, but feeling hot isn't because your core body temperature's gone up. It's because more of your blood goes to your skin (vasodilation) and you sweat more, in order to dissipate the heat. Mostly, if someone feels too hot from exercising, they'll slow down or stop and try to cool down. You might feel ill at that point (heavy exercise can make you feel ill if it's more than what you're used to), while your core body temperature is still within the normal range. Heat exhaustion can happen if you're unable to cool down (e.g. because it's too hot or humid, or if, for whatever reason, you carry on exercising regardless - especially if it's hot or humid), but it's not inevitable. And feeling ill and too hot from exercise doesn't mean you have heat exhaustion.

    You can pass out from exercise for various reasons, even on a cold day. Low blood pressure or your body failing to equalise blood pressure after changes in posture/types of exercise can cause someone to pass out. Low blood sugar also can do this. For example, at the moment at my rugby club we're doing boot camp style training as it's the off season. I've got to the point where I felt like I was about to pass out a few times, and it's not been hot at all. In my case, it's low blood pressure. Some exercises (e.g. those involving lifting heavy objects) causes rapid changes in blood pressure. Suddenly stopping an exercise can cause a drop in blood pressure (when you move your legs, it helps the blood go back to your heart. If you stop moving your legs suddenly, less blood is getting back to your heart) which can cause you to pass out. I have to be very careful about this. Keeping my legs moving between exercises (walking back and forth rather than just stopping and standing still) prevents me from feeling like I'm going to pass out. If someone hasn't had enough to eat then that also can make them pass out, or increase the risk of them passing out as a result of blood pressure changes.

    Going back to your critique group, if the only info they've got is that this guy's passed out working on a roof on a hot day, and they're saying "he has heat exhaustion/heat stroke" - well, they're not doctors... just because it's hot doesn't mean he's got heat stroke. If you want him to be fine shortly after passing out, then maybe the cause can be a combination of low blood pressure, low blood sugar and lifting heavy stuff then suddenly stopping. This is not a medical emergency (as long as he doesn't fall of the roof as a result!). He'll only be unconscious for a few seconds, then he'll start to come round, feel groggy for a while, but if he lies still for a while with his feet up, sits up slowly, has some water and something to eat with sugar in it, he'll start to feel better. He won't need an epic or dramatic rescue off the roof. He'll be able to get himself off the roof when he starts to feel a bit better, albeit it's a good idea if someone goes down with him in case he feels faint again. Just don't make him be unconscious for a long period of time! Unfeasibly long periods of unconsciousness when it's not medically plausible is a common way that writers mess up stuff like this.

    Note: if he has lost consciousness for more than a few seconds in your story, this would explain why the critique group think he's got heat stroke.
    Last edited by neandermagnon; 06-14-2018 at 10:33 AM.
    my blog - cave people and stuff - an imaginative look at palaeolithic life: http://cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com/

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