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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2005 Sep;26(3):236-9.

Dehydration and heat-related death: sweat lodge syndrome.

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  • 1Forensic Science SA, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


A 37-year-old Caucasian male died of dehydration and heat exposure following a sweat lodge ceremony in outback Australia. The case demonstrates difficulties that may arise in the determination of the cause of death at autopsy due to nonspecific pathologic findings in hyperthermic deaths. There are also a number of features that characterize this particular "sweat lodge syndrome," including prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures in a relatively uncontrolled environment, failure to ensure adequate hydration, failure to appreciate the significance of loss of consciousness, use of ineffective alternative methods of treatment, and delay in seeking appropriate medical care. Unfortunately, the adoption of rituals and practice from other cultures may not be a completely safe undertaking. Participants in this type of activity must be cognizant of the types of medical problems that may arise. Individuals with significant cardiovascular disease, those who are taking certain medications that predispose to hyperthermia, or those who have had large amounts of alcohol should not enter sweat lodges.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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