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June 25, 1982

Treating heatstroke on pilgrimage to Mecca

JAMA. 1982;247(24):3302-3303. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320490008003

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Every year about 2.5 million Muslims make their way to their most important religious shrine, the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Because desert temperatures can rise to above 40 °C, heatstroke is common among the pilgrims.

At the Third International Congress of Thermology in Bath, England, Kenneth Collins, MB, described a new body-cooling device developed at London's School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that can reduce the body temperature of heatstroke victims to safe levels within ten minutes. It has already been used to treat about 100 of these victims on the road to Mecca, and there are plans to treat about 75 additional persons whom the government of Saudi Arabia will locate along the pilgrimage route.

The machine consists of a kind of hammock suspended in midair, in which the heatstroke victim lies while he is sprayed with a mixture of air and warm, atomized water. The warm