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
- Visual disturbances
- 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.