How to Treat and Prevent Heat Stroke

First Aid Tips for Gold Coast Families

With temperatures set to rise above 35 degrees Celsius over the weekend, its time to refresh your first aid knowledge on heat illness.

What is heat-related stress?
Heat-related stress is illness which usually occurs when a person is exposed to a hot-environment which overwhelms their body’s ability to maintain a normal temperature. The early symptoms of heat-related stress include headaches, dizziness, faintness, nausea and vomiting. In babies, signs of heat-related stress include restlessness, irritability and a reduced number of wet nappies. Heat-related stress is a serious medical condition. If not recognised early and managed properly, people can potentially develop life-threatening illness (heat-stroke). Simple measures that can be applied by everyone significantly reduce the chance of becoming seriously unwell with heat-related stress.

What causes heat-related stress?
People adapt to heat by sweating, reducing their level of physical activity, and moving to a cool environment such as an air-conditioned building. If a person is not able to adapt in this way then their body temperature begins to rise and they become unwell.

Heat-related stress can occur in anyone but those most at risk include:

young children and babies
the elderly
pregnant women
obese individuals
disabled individuals, particularly those with impaired mobility
individuals on medications which promote fluid loss or reduce sweating
individuals who exercise or work outdoors
people who are not acclimatized to heat (e.g. overseas visitors)

Heat-related stress can occur on normal summer days, but the risk of developing heat-related stress increases dramatically if outdoor temperatures rise above 35 degrees Celsius. Relatively short exposure to extremely hot environments can also cause heat-related stress. These include the interior of a hot car, a tent on a hot day, or periods of direct exposure to the sun.

The risk of developing heat-related stress is highest during a ‘heat-wave’ where temperatures are above average for several sequential days and it remains hot overnight.

How can heat-related stress be prevented?
Individuals must protect themselves from the dangers of heat-related stress during hot summer days and heat-waves. The following measures should be followed to reduce the chance of suffering heat-related stress:

Drink plenty of fluids and avoid dehydration
Dehydration reduces your body’s ability to cool itself by sweating. Check with your doctor how much you should drink if you are on limited fluids or fluid pills.
Water is the best fluid to drink.
Avoid beverages which contain caffeine or alcohol.

Stay in a cool environment
Stay indoors or in the shade wherever possible.
Sleep in the coolest part of the house.
Keep air circulating and use air conditioning if available. If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned facility such as a shopping centre or library.

Reduce physical activity
Avoid strenuous physical activity.
If activity is unavoidable, rest often and drink plenty of fluids.

Take extra measures to increase cooling
Wear light-weight clothing.
Take a shower, bath or sponge bath.
Eat regular, light meals.

Be aware of vulnerable people
Frequently check on older, sick and frail people who may need help coping with the heat.
Never leave children or pets unattended in a motor vehicle as temperatures can rise very rapidly to dangerous levels.

Learn First Aid
Undertaking a First Aid Course is a great way of better preparing yourself for emergencies such as heat stroke.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Flushed, hot, dry skin
Sweating has ceased
Rapid, weak pulse
Irrational, aggressive and confused
Fatigue
Visual disturbances
Headache
Nausea/vomiting
Seizures
Coma leading to cardiac arrest

First Aid Management of Heat Stroke

Call 000 for an ambulance
Complete rest in the shade
Remove excess clothing
Lay the person down and elevate legs
Give sips of cool water
Cover the person in wet sheets and fan cool air over them
Apply wrapped ice packs to the groins, armpits and back of the neck

Further information on severe hot weather can be found on the Gold Coast City Council website.

Andy Panes

Andy Panes

Andy is the Director of Education at Paradise First Aid, a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) providing first aid education to the Gold Coast community. He manages a team of dedicated staff and trainers and is responsible for the overall management of Paradise First Aid's partnering organisations across Australia. Prior to establishing one of the Gold Coasts best known first aid training companies, Andy worked as an Emergency Department Technician in a metropolitan Emergency Department in the south west of England. He has also worked in the private and voluntary sector delivering vital medical services at large events in the UK and Australia including Glastonbury and Reading Festival, Big Day Out, Summafieldayze, Ekka, Gold Coast Show, Suncorp Stadium, The Gabba and many more. Andy also manages 'Gold Coast First Aid Facts', a community FaceBook page dedicated to providing the community with lifesaving first aid information.
Andy Panes
Andy Panes
Andy Panes

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