Saturday, 23 October 2010

Heat Stroke in Cold Weather

The strangest things have happened in the world, and one of the strangest happened to me yesterday evening. I had heat stroke in cold weather. Sounds impossible? Read on.

Yesterday evening I went for a nice dinner out with Viking Man, his best man (and friend) Roy and his wife Jen, who was my bridesmaid.

I don't normally drink alcohol because I get very flushed and red in the face, neck, ears and shoulders and I start feeling very hot. But our friends served us white wine and I didn't want to refuse, because it was such a nice occasion.

The temperature outdoors was a cold 3.4 degrees celsius and I thought I was being sensible by wearing a turtleneck cashmere top that retains a lot of body heat without the use of a scarf. But coming from a hot country without the intelligence of understanding there are extreme temperature differences between indoor and outdoor temperature, I fail to realise that my
cashmere top was not good for indoors. 

I'm guessing the restaurant we went to was about 22-24 degrees celsius. 

The bad news was that 
1. I was wearing a turtleneck cashmere longsleeved cape top

2. I have been a little dehydrated the past few days by not drinking enough water

3. My body is not accustomed to alcohol, which is dehydrating and causes metabolic rate to rise temporarily, thereby increasing body heat.

4. I get extremely hot and flushed in my skin after consuming alcohol, which is a sign that my body is trying to lose heat through the increased bloodflow and venous dilation in my skin. 

I don't know why - Westerners like to say that Asians are "allergic" to alcohol, Asians (or Singaporeans) like to say that it's a sign that the liver processes alcohol much faster than other people. I don't know if one of both are urban myths, but I do know that my body doesn't take to alcohol very well.

5. The air in the restaurant was a little stuffy and warm, and it was full of people and noise.

6. I was feeling hot in the restaurant, but unlike Viking Man and friends, I cannot remove my cashmere top. They had all removed their jumpers, vests and coats, wearing just short-sleeved tops or office shirt. My cashmere top *was* acting like a warm winter coat itself. I did notice that my neck was very warm but I ignored it, thinking that my body can take it. 

*Do not ignore when your neck gets hot under clothing - it is an important part of the skin and body that helps to lose heat to regulate the body temperature.* 

*In fact most of my skin was covered from top to toe with warm clothing - high boots, tights under pants, cashmere longsleeve top.  Don't forget - skin is an important body organ that helps regulate water and heat in the body.

I was having nice Spanish tapas with Viking Man and friends - being a little sensitive to my body I had ordered orange juice (the rest were sharing a bottle of red wine), but succumbed to a second glass of alcohol when I saw *mohito* on the menu. 

I was about feeling quite full with all the 7 tapas we ordered when I suddenly felt giddy and nauseous. 


1. Overwhelming Dizziness (omg, what's happening to me???)
2. Nausea (please god, I don't want to throw up in the restaurant)
3. Bright white spots in my sight (Seeing stars, or almost blank white sight)
4. Delirium, confusion (couldn't understand or react when Viking Man asked if I wanted to go to the toilet with Jen)
5. Inability to move my head to nod or speak (because I was so overcome by dizziness)
6. Difficulty feeling my breath (Jen kept asking: can you breathe?)

At first I thought it must be an allergic reaction to the scallops I was taking - because I seldom take seafood, being a 90% vegetarian, hah. It might be an unknown catalyst, but I can't be certain.

I bent double over the high stool Viking Man was sitting on, and stayed like that because I thought it might be low blood pressure. But it didn't help the nausea or bright white spots so I closed my eyes and focused on breathing. 

Feel my breath, feel my breath - I have to use my breathing to help me find stability within the swirling chaotic waves in my head. 

My whole world was literally spinning. Trying to gain control with the only thing I can control - my breath. I remembered yoga lessons, where I found it a miracle that breathing can relax pain and cramps in my stretches; I remembered the miracles that happened when I focused on my breath during meditation, I remembered that only my breath can stabilise my being.

Perhaps a miracle did happen - I broke out into sweat. My palms, back, face and neck started perspiring like crazy - I was literally drenched in sweat in a couple of seconds. That was the point I realised the cause of the symptoms - heat stroke, baby, heatstroke. Thankfully a short heat stroke and not prolonged, because prolonged heat stroke can cause brain damage, multiple organ failure and "morbidity" which means I go kaput.

Jen and Roy were so concerned that they wanted to bring me on a taxi to the nearest emergency ward, which was a 7 minute walk away. Thankfully by the time the restaurant wanted to "chase us out" (nah, not really) because we were creating a scene there, I was feeling so much better after perspiring profusely.

Suddenly I could stand, walk and talk! 

The first thing I said was, "It's just heat stroke". Sensible Jen understood that I needed to go outside to cool down outside in the cold air.

So I walked outside and within minutes of loosening my turtleneck a bit and wiping off my sweat, I feel like myself again. But I was acting like I was shaken. Just a little.

My hands were trembling a little because of the whole incident.

Roy and Viking Man decided to go back in the restaurant and finish off the meal with a gusto. Yes, VM also ate the champaignon mushrooms we ordered but came after I was nauseous. So I didn't get a taste of that, humph. Roy finished up the food, while we girls stood outside laughing at the two men who are gobbling up the leftover food. I took some pictures but it was a little too dark. (I'm also having problems uploading pictures from my phone to my computer so pardon).

So that's it. Know that it's possible to have heat stroke in cold weather - and bear in mind your own body's needs at all times..



  1. It wasn't heat stroke. Just exhaustion. Don't start trying to make people sympathize over you.

    1. I'm sorry you weren't me in my body; if you had been, you would know the difference between exhaustion and heat stroke. I've had heat stroke trekking through tropical rainforests in the sun, and I've been exhausted by working more than 24 hours without sleep. Trust me, I know the difference.


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