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Heatstroke: First Aid And Emergency Treatment


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Heatstroke is no joke. It is a life-threatening condition where the body overheats, which can cause confusion, agitation, slurred speech, and altered mental status. 

The Australian summer can be intense and come with unique circumstances that may require knowledge of first aid. The most effective way to prevent heat-related illness is to know the warning signs and proper preparation ahead of time. 

What Is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke (or sunstroke) is the most serious form of heat illness and is considered a true medical emergency. It happens when the body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius).

Heatstroke usually occurs due to overexertion in hot, humid conditions where the body becomes dehydrated and cannot produce enough sweat to cool itself sufficiently. The body is exposed to excess heat and produces/absorbs more heat than it can release, causing its internal temperature to rise.

The condition can affect anyone, but certain groups are at higher risk than others, including children and the elderly. Additionally, athletes and people who work outdoors, such as carpenters, traders, roofers, and firefighters, are susceptible to heat stroke. People with an existing mental health condition, those who are obese/overweight, and those who are taking certain medications are also more likely to suffer from serious complications than others.

Heatstroke, if left untreated, can develop quickly and become a life-threatening emergency.

Before you head out and spend time outdoors this summer, we suggest you know the warning signs of heat stroke, how to prevent it, and what to do if in case it happens.

The good news is the adverse health effects of hot weather are largely preventable through good prevention techniques and knowing first aid for heatstroke.

Signs Of Stroke In Men And Women

If someone is suspected of heatstroke, pay particular attention to the time the symptoms appear. First aid intervention is most effective when given soon after a stroke begins.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of stroke include:

  • Difficulty speaking and understanding speech (slur words)
  • Sudden confusion
  • Sudden numbness or paralysis in the face, arm, or leg
  • Problems seeing in one or both eyes
  • Blurred or blackened vision
  • Trouble walking
  • Losing balance or loss of coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Dizziness
  • Altered consciousness

Someone who is having a heatstroke is not getting enough blood in the brain to function normally. First aid treatment is needed right away to lower the chances of brain damage, disability, or even death. 

It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heatstroke, particularly if you live or care for a person who belongs to a high-risk group. Remember, minutes matter in treating heat stroke.

First Aid For Heatstroke

When a heatstroke is suspected, call emergency services and ask for help immediately. While waiting for an ambulance to arrive, use a combination of the following first aid measures depending on the circumstances and means available:

  • Place the person in a comfortable position with their legs slightly elevated. If they are in a hot area, move them to a shade, cool air-conditioned building, room, or car.
  • Remove or loosen the person’s clothes to help with the airflow.
  • Give the person water or an electrolyte drink such as Gatorade or Pedialyte to replace the fluid loss in the body and prevent dehydration. 
  • Apply cold compress in body areas such as the neck, armpits, and groin. Cool the person using wet towels or a wet sheet and position a fan across the surface. The evaporation of water on the skin helps bring down the body temperature. If shivering occurs, reduce active cooling measures.
  • Monitor the person continuously and look for any developing symptoms. 
  • If the person remains unresponsive or not alert, place them in the recovery position (a position on one side with the far leg bent at an angle).
  • Prepare to give CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if necessary.

Preventing Heatstroke

Maintaining a safe body temperature will require your body to eliminate all the excess heat. Read on for six tips to help you stay cool this summer season.

Exercise Smart

Try to do physical exercises in the early morning or late evening when it is generally cooler than in the middle of the day. Stay inside or in a cooler temperature when the temperature is very high.

Keep Hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids, especially on hot days. Avoid coffee, soda, and alcohol, which can lead to dehydration.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

People who are overweight or obese are at much greater risk of heat stroke and heat-related illnesses—carrying the excess weight cause you to retain more heat and affect the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.

Provide Shade And Airflow

Protect yourself from direct sunlight by keeping the windows and blinds closed when working indoors

Consider leaving in air conditioning or setting up a fan for continuous airflow.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light, loose-fitting clothes to limit sun exposure. Always bring an umbrella, awning, or overhang when spending time outdoors to protect yourself from the heat. 

Avoid Alcohol

Do not consume alcohol in excess. Drinking more than recommended can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature.


The immediate danger comes from the extreme heat that affects the body’s ability to regulate its normal temperature to function well. For this reason, it is crucial to cool down or lower the person’s temperature quickly.

If someone is experiencing symptoms of heatstroke, the priority is to get them to a cool, shaded area out of direct sunlight. Have the person lie down to reduce the effect of overexertion and give them water or electrolytes to prevent dehydration. 

Heatstroke and other related illnesses are entirely preventable with a bit of planning and following the first aid safety tips above to help mitigate any complications that may occur. Lastly, make sure to know different first aid techniques to have a safe, happy summer.

Interested in getting a first aid course? Visit our page or the First Aid Courses to find out more. 

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