12 Medical Conditions That Can Kill You in 24 Hours or Less

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Some illnesses can kill in 24 hours or less. From stroke to mosquito-borne diseases, here’s what you need to know.

Some diseases can be extremely deadly

Of course, there are heart attacks and strokes that can lead to sudden death. But when it comes to infectious diseases, many factors come into play that will determine if you get sick—and how sick you get, says Robert Citronberg, MD, director of infectious diseases at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. Genetics can predispose someone to illness, and the aggressiveness of a certain strain of bacteria or virus can make it lethal. But as you read through this list, know that the infections that kill quickly aren’t common. “They’re rare but memorable when you see people with them,” he says.

Stroke

As the number five cause of death in the United States, someone dies of a stroke every four minutes, according to the American Stroke Association. A stroke happens when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain (or the blood vessel ruptures), which cuts off oxygen to the brain. In the case of an ischemic stroke, clot-busting medications can be given to save your life—but typically within three hours.

Malaria

The mosquito-borne illness can be found in parts of the world like South America, Africa, and Asia. “A particular type of malaria parasite, called P. falciparum can be life-threatening,” says Dr. Citronberg. He explains that the parasite quickly destroys red blood cells, which have the key role in delivering oxygen to your body tissues. If you are traveling abroad, he recommends seeing a travel medicine specialist or doctor who may recommend taking medications that prevent malaria.

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