Heatstroke develops if the body is unable to control its own temperature. The body temperature continues to rise, often reaching up to 40 degrees C or even higher. The indications of a swiftly progressing heatstroke include:
- Loss of consciousness for more than a few seconds
- Indications of moderate to severe difficulty breathing
- Convulsion or seizure
- Rapid heart rate
- Rectal temperature higher than 40 degrees C after being exposed to a warm environment
- Confusion and evident restlessness or anxiety
- Excessive sweating or has stopped
- Skin is warm, red and dry even in the armpits
- Severe diarrhea and vomiting
Always bear in mind that heatstroke is a medical emergency. Even if immediate care is given, it can be dangerous or cause serious, lasting complications.
Immediate care for heatstroke
After calling for emergency assistance, the following steps must be followed:
- Transfer the individual to a cool area away from direct sunlight
- Get rid of any unnecessary clothing and place the individual on his/her side to expose as much skin to the air.
- Cool the entire body by spraying or sponging cold water. You can even fan the individual to lower down the body temperature. Monitor for any of the indications that the condition is rapidly progressing such as loss of consciousness, seizures and moderate to severe difficulty breathing.
- Check the rectal temperature and try to lower it to 39 degrees C or lower. Remember that if the body temperature remains high, the more serious the illness and likely for complications to develop.
- If a child ceases to breathe, perform rescue breathing.
- Aspirin or acetaminophen should not be given to lower down a high body temperature due to heatstroke. These medications can cause issues due to the bodily response to heatstroke.
- In case the individual is alert and awake to be able to swallow, provide fluids for hydration. Most individuals with heatstroke usually have an altered level of consciousness and could not be safely given fluids to drink. Make sure that the individual is seated so that choking can be prevented.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on heatstroke is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage heat-related conditions such as heatstroke by taking a standard first aid course with Vancouver First Aid.