First Aid Information for Heatstroke


It’s almost summer time and while there are tons of fun activities waiting for us this summer, there are some those things that we aren’t exactly too excited for, the scorching heat, for example, and the health concerns that come with it, such as heat stroke.

So, when heat stroke hits you or someone you know or even a stranger you just happen to pass by, how will you be able to react? What do you do? Below are some first aid information that might be of help when you face situations like this.

Identifying heatstroke

Heatstroke occurs when the body fails to normalize its own temperature and body temperature continues to rise (often to 104°F (40°C) or higher). Signs of rapidly progressing heatstroke are:

  • Unconsciousness for longer than a few seconds.
  • Convulsion (seizure).
  • Signs of moderate to severe difficulty breathing.
  • A rectal temperature over 104°F (40°C) after exposure to a hot environment.
  • Confusion, severe restlessness, or anxiety.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Sweating that may be heavy or may have stopped.
  • Skin that may be red, hot, and dry, even in the armpits.
  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea.

Addressing heat stroke

  • Heatstroke is considered a medical emergency, so it’s best to call 911 first or other emergency medical services.
  • Lower body temperature while waiting for emergency services to arrive.
    • Move the person into a cool place, out of direct sunlight.
    • Remove the person’s unnecessary clothing, and place the person on his or her side to expose as much skin surface to the air as possible.
    • Cool the person’s entire body by sponging or spraying cold water, and fan the person to help lower the person’s body temperature. Watch for signs of rapidly progressing heatstroke, such as seizure, unconsciousness for longer than a few seconds, and moderate to severe difficulty breathing.
    • Apply ice packs over as much of the body as you can.
    • Check the person’s rectal temperature and try to reduce it to 102°F (39°C) or lower as soon as possible. The longer the body is at a high temperature, the more serious the illness and the more likely it is that complications will develop. Temperatures taken by mouth or in the ear are not accurate in this emergency situation.
    • Do not give aspirin or acetaminophen to reduce a high body temperature that can occur with heatstroke. These medicines may cause problems because of the body’s response to heatstroke.
    • If the person is awake and alert enough to swallow, give the person fluids [32 fl oz (1 L) to 64 fl oz (2 L) over 1 to 2 hours] for hydration.
    • Most people with heatstroke have an altered level of consciousness and cannot safely be given fluids to drink. You may have to help. Make sure the person is sitting up enough so that he or she does not choke.
    • Do not give the person anything to drink if the person is not alert or is vomiting.
  • Treat symptoms
    • If the person experiences seizures, keep him or her safe from injury.
    • If the person vomits, turn the person on his or her side to keep the airway open.
    • Begin CPR if the person loses consciousness and shows no signs of circulation, such as breathing, coughing or movement.
  • Follow up – At the hospital, health care providers will rehydrate the person and continue cooling as needed.




Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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