Heat Stroke

The Savior of Heat Stroke: Gua Sha


Summer has indeed arrived!  We all like to use this great opportunity to enjoy exciting outdoor activities.  All too often, we forget to protect ourselves from the strong summer sun.  After long exposure to a warm environment, we may suddenly feel dizzy, nauseas and tired; this condition is generally described as a light degree of “heat stroke.”


Heat stroke is a type of heat-related illness, defined as a body temperature greater than 40.6 °C (105.1 °F) due to environmental heat exposure.  Heat stroke, under certain conditions, may be a life-threatening emergency.  The reason being excess absorbed or produced heat in the body that cannot be efficiently dissipated.  This could result in tissue injury, loss of normal organ function, or even brain damage if fainting is experienced.


Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the term “heat stroke” often not in an emergency condition, but as a common diagnosis with symptoms occurring during the summer and autumn seasons.  For example, walking through a parking lot with your body exposed to a high heat environment causes the hair follicles to open to release the extra heat; then, upon entering an office building with air conditioning, the hair follicles will close suddenly to preserve heat.  In such a short transition period, the excess heat absorbed outdoors was not released completely. Trapping this excess heat on the surface of the body can lead to the possibility of “heat stroke.”  Other symptoms may be related, such as headache, sore throat, running nose, coughing, or even tightness in the neck and shoulders.  These may be treated with a technique called “Gua Sha,” also known as scraping. The discomfort caused by this treatment can be immediately relieved.


The word “Gua” means scrape, and “Sha” refers the so-called “heat spot” or “fever.” When using this scraping technique a red or purple spot will appear on the neck and upper back region.  Scraping Therapy not only releases the heat from the surface of the body, but an also relieve blood flow, improve blood circulation and promote metabolism. Usually, a higher severity of “heat stroke” is made apparent by a deeper color of the red or purple spot that occurs from the scraping treatment. After the treatment you should feel relaxed and the pain or discomfort from the scraping should be released.  Under normal circumstances, the heat spots will slowly disappear in one to three days, for some elderly people it may take up to seven to ten days due to slow blood circulation and metabolism.


The best prevention of heat stroke is to keep your body in a cool environment, and avoid often going from hot to cold or cold to hot temperatures too quickly. Your body needs time to balance its temperature. If the symptoms of “heat stroke” are severe, and fainting occurs, emergency attention is needed immediately.