First Aid Heat Related Illness

Heat Cramps

Usually occur when a person has been active in hot weather and is dehydrated.

Treating heat cramps is very simple, do the following:

  • Remove the victim from the hot environment, a shady area will suffice.
  • Stretch the calf and thigh muscles gently through the cramp. This usually results in immediate relief.
  • Hydrate the victim, use a small concentration of salt for best results.
  • Have the victim rest.

Heat Exhaustion

People most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

Treatment of Heat Exhaustion

  • Hydrate the victim
  • Loosen the clothing.
  • Apply cool wet cloths.
  • Move the victim to either a cool or an air-conditioned area, and fan the victim.

The treatment priority for heat exhaustion is to cool the victim. Heat exhaustion is not life-threatening (unlike heat stroke), so EMS is not needed unless the victim’s condition worsens to the point of entering heat stroke. If the victim’s level of consciousness is affected, that is heat stroke.

Heat Stroke

Is a serious, life-threatening problem that can cause death in minutes. The treatment priority with heat stroke is to call 911and cool the victim down.

When you provide first aid for heatstroke, remember that this is a true life-and-death emergency. The longer the victim remains overheated, the higher the chances of irreversible body damage or even death were occurring.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Unconscious or has a markedly abnormal mental status
  • Flushed, hot, and dry skin (although it may be moist initially from previous sweating or from attempts to cool the person with water)
  • May experience dizziness, confusion, or delirium
  • May have slightly elevated blood pressure at first that falls later
  • May be hyperventilating
  • Inner (core) temperature of 105°F or more

Treatment of Heat Stroke

  • Notify EMS (911)
  • Cool the victim’s body immediately by dousing the body with cool water.
  • Apply wet, cold towels to the whole body.
  • Pack ice into the victim’s heat-loss areas (underarms, groin, neck). Do not let ice contact the victim’s bare skin as this may cause frostbite!
  • Immersing the victim in a cold water bath is also effective.
  • Do not give any hot drinks, stimulants or alcohol.
  • Never give an unconscious victim something to drink as it may obstruct the airway or cause vomiting.
  • Move the victim to the coolest possible place and remove as much clothing as possible (ensure privacy).
  • Maintain an open airway.
  • Expose the victim to a fan or air-conditioner since drafts will promote cooling.
  • Give the victim (if conscious) cool water to drink.

Monitor the victim’s vital signs frequently. Be prepared to begin CPR should the victim become unconscious and not be breathing.

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