First Aid for Heatstroke

heat stroke first aid

The Vital Facts

  • Heatwaves stand as one of the most significant natural hazards in Australia, causing the second-highest number of fatalities after disease epidemics among all-natural disasters.
  • Vulnerability to heatstroke increases with age, with the highest fatality rates observed in individuals aged 75 and above.
  • Heatstroke fatalities concentrate in specific geographical areas, with hotspots primarily occurring in coastal capital cities, particularly in the South Eastern region of Australia.

Feeling the heat? It’s time to talk about heatstroke and how to treat it!

Follow these steps to apply first aid for heatstroke:

  1. Call 000
  2. Apply ice packs
  3. Encourage the patient to drink fluids
  4. Have the patient lay down in the shade
  5. Immerse the patient in cool water
  6. Mist the patient with water
  7. Monitor the patient’s breathing
  8. Do not give any medications
  9. Remove tight or heavy clothing

See here for a more-depth look at heatstroke treatment.

Read on to learn all the details on what heatstroke is, the warning signs to watch out for, and most importantly, how to provide first aid for heat stroke when someone’s in trouble.

So, grab a cold drink and let’s dive right in!

Jump to:

Why is Heatstroke so Dangerous in Australia?

You know that feeling when it’s so hot outside that you feel like you’re melting?

While it’s a great excuse to head to the beach and catch some waves, it can also be the beginning of what could be a serious health issue.

The Australian summer can be intense! Heatwaves have caused more deaths in Australia in the past 200 years than any other natural hazard.

This means it’s essential that all Australians know how to provide first aid for heatstroke. The most effective way to prevent heat-related illness is to know the warning signs and be properly prepared ahead of time.

What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature gets too high, and your internal cooling system goes into overdrive. This can happen when you’re outside on a hot day for too long, especially if you’re not drinking enough water.

Extreme heat can also exacerbate existing health conditions and chronic illnesses including diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease.

Who’s at Risk of Heatstroke?

The people who are most susceptible to heatstroke are those who are outdoors on a hot, humid day or inside in a poorly ventilated area.

In particular, children, the elderly or the obese are at a heightened risk of heatstroke. Children and the elderly show the fastest progression of heat stroke symptoms and can collapse suddenly, requiring urgent first aid.

Those on certain medications can also be more prone to heat illness as many medications can alter the way the body handles heat and sun.

Those who drink alcohol before, during or after vigorous activity are also more susceptible to heat illness, as are people who do heavy work with inadequate fluid intake.

Even those in excellent health can suffer heat stroke if early symptoms are ignored. That’s why it always pays to have first aid kits at hand in times of emergencies like heatstroke.

Are Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke the Same Thing?

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are both types of hyperthermia. Heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke if left untreated. However, heat exhaustion isn’t as severe as heatstroke, as it doesn’t cause neurological problems and isn’t usually life-threatening.

Symptoms of Heatstroke

Now, how do you know if someone’s got heatstroke?

Symptoms of heatstroke can vary from person to person, but some common physical symptoms include:

  • reduced sweating
  • high body temperature (above 40°C)
  • dry, flushed, hot skin
  • nausea
  • muscle spasms
  • pain throughout the body
  • unusual behaviour or signs of confusion
  • seizure or possible loss of responsiveness

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Treatment for Heatstroke

If you suspect that someone is experiencing heatstroke, it’s important to take first aid steps immediately.

  • Call 000
  • Applying ice packs to the neck, groin, and armpits.
  • Encouraging them to drink small sips of water or Hydralyte/Gastrolyte.
  • Having them lay down in a cool, shady, well-ventilated environment.
  • Immerse them in cool water, if possible.
  • Misting them with water and blowing air across their bodies (evaporative cooling).
  • Monitoring their breathing carefully and removing any airway blockages.
  • Not giving any medications, including aspirin and acetaminophen.
  • Removing any clothing that is tight or heavy.

Read of our previous blog where we share several first aid treatments for common summer emergencies.

How to Prevent Heatstroke?

In most cases, it’s possible to prevent heatstroke by:

  • Avoiding strenuous physical activity in hot, humid conditions.
  • Consuming sports drinks, lightly salted water, or broth.
  • Gradually letting your body acclimate to warm temperatures over several weeks if you’ll have to be in hot conditions for work or sports.
  • Never leaving children (or pets) in closed, hot spaces such as cars.
  • Staying in air-conditioned or well-ventilated areas during heat waves.
  • Wearing lightweight, light-coloured, and loose-fitting clothing if you’ll be out in the heat.

Heatstroke is a serious condition that requires prompt and proper treatment. By knowing the symptoms and taking appropriate first aid steps, you can help prevent further complications. Check out the benefits of first aid training online here.

Learn First Aid for Heatstroke and Other Injuries with Vital First Aid

Whether you are an individual working or volunteering for sporting events or know someone who’s susceptible to heatstroke, it’s essential that you have the knowledge and skills to confidently apply first aid and respond to a medical emergency until professional medical assistance is available.

Our qualified first aid trainers are highly skilled and experienced, and all students will receive a First Aid Certificate on completion.

To benefit from our range of first aid courses, sign up here.

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Vital First Aid is a dynamic Registered Training Organisation specialising in providing accredited practical training in all facets of first aid and pre-hospital care.

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