Emergency First Aid for Heatstroke - Adventist HealthCare

Emergency First Aid for Heatstroke

Topic Overview

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

  • 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.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Even with immediate treatment, it can be life-threatening or result in serious, long-term complications. After calling 911 or other emergency medical services, follow these first aid steps.

  • 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.
  • If a child has stopped breathing, begin rescue breathing.
  • 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. You may have to help. Make sure the person is sitting up enough so that he or she does not choke. Most people with heatstroke have an altered level of consciousness and cannot safely be given fluids to drink.

Related Information

Credits

Current as ofSeptember 23, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website, and its associated websites, is provided as a benefit to the local community, and the Internet community in general; it does not constitute medical advice. We try to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. As medical advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each patient and healthcare is constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of a competent physician. Furthermore, in providing this service, Adventist HealthCare does not condone or support all of the content covered in this site. As an Adventist health care organization, Adventist HealthCare acts in accordance with the ethical and religious directives for Adventist health care services.

Find a Doctor

Find an Adventist HealthCare affiliated doctor by calling our FREE physician referral service at 800-642-0101 or by searching our online physician directory.

View Doctors

Set Your Location

Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.