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First Aid 

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is associated with dangerous levels of overheating secondary to a high fever or sustained heat exposure, especially in a hot, humid environment. Heat stroke can follow heat exhaustion and typically involves a lack of sweating. Heat stroke is also exacerbated by exertion or by strenuous activity in the heat.  An individual experiencing heat stroke may become unconscious within minutes of feeling unwell. Heat stroke can be life-threatening and can cause damage to the brain and vital organs.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Fever greater than or equal to 104F

  • Change in mental status such as confusion and agitation

  • Slurred speech

  • Fainting

  • Hot and dry skin or heavy sweating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Headache

  • Rapid pulse and breathing

  • Flushed skin

To treat heat stroke most effectively, take the following steps:

  1. Call for emergency medical assistance, move the individual to a cool place (ideally indoors), and remove as much outer clothing as possible.

  2. Cool the individual by having them sit down, placing fans directly on them, and place ice packs on the neck, armpits, and groin. You may also place a cold, wet sheet over the individual, place them in a tub of cool water, or run them under a cool shower.

  3. Have the individual drink cool water. Do not give sugary, caffeinated, or alcoholic drinks. Also, do not give very cold drinks. 

  4. Monitor vital signs and body temperature until help arrives. Repeat the cooling process if body temperature arises again. If the individual is unresponsive, not breathing, and has no pulse, begin CPR immediately. 

Resources

Austin, M., Crawford, R., & Armstrong, V. J. (2014). First aid manual. (G. M. Piazza, Ed.) (5th ed.). DK Publishing. https://kuiyem.ku.edu.tr/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/American-College-of-Emergency-Physicians-ACEP-First-Aid-Manual.pdf.

Australian Red Cross. (n.d.). Heatstroke and heat exhaustion. https://www.redcross.org.au/get-help/emergencies/looking-after-yourself/heatstroke-and-heat-exhaustion

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, April 1). Heatstroke: First aid. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-heatstroke/basics/art-20056655.