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First Aid: Heat Stroke

The human body has several mechanisms that dissipate heat and cool the body. When the body can no longer cool itself and goes beyond heat cramps and heat exhaustion the body will enter the final stage of heat disorders, heat stroke. When the human body’s core temperature rises above 41 degrees Celsius the situation becomes life threatening. With the body no longer able to sweat and cool the system immediate intervention is required or the patient can suffer a loss of consciousness, permanent brain damage and death. This page will focus on the signs and symptoms of heat stroke, the treatment and how to prevent it. The material posted on this page is for information purposes only, to learn to recognize and provide care for patients with heat stroke enrol into a standard first aid course (find a provider near you).

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke:

  • Lowered level’s of consciousness including confusion.
  • Seizures.
  • Nausea, vomiting and headaches.
  • Irregular pulse rate.
  • Unconscious, non breathing, no pulse.
  • Shock.
  • Unconscious.
  • Hot, dry, flushed skin.
  • Absence of sweat, red skin.

The presence of hot and dry skin coupled with lowered or no consciousness should flag to the rescuer a high likelihood of heat stroke.

Treatment of Heat Stroke:

  • If CPR is needed the rescuer should administer it and contact EMS and retrieve a AED through the use of a bystander if possible.
  • The patient should be removed from the environment and placed into the coolest place available.
  • Lay the patient down on his or her back if possible and remove the patients clothing to apply cold water to the patient.
  • Other methods of efficient and rapid cooling include covering the victim in cool water, placing a wet cold blanket on the victim, or soaking the victim with cool water. Rescuer(s) should aggressively cool the victim’s body.
  • Contact EMS immediately.
  • If conscious and able to do so the patient should rehydrate with cool fluids excluding alcoholic beverages, caffeine beverages, soft drinks or other diuretics.

To prevent heat stroke people should be careful not to overexert themselves in hot and humid environments and lead healthy lifestyles without drug or alcohol abuse. To learn more about caring for and recognizing patients with heat stroke enrol into a standard first aid course.