Beat the Heat! How to Help Someone Suffering from a Heat Emergency

It’s a sweltering hot summer day.  You’re walking on the white-hot sidewalk, sweat pouring down your face, when you suddenly notice a jogger hunched over on the ground.  You approach her and notice that she’s drenched in sweat — her eyes are half-closed and she’s mumbling incoherently.  This is a serious medical emergency.


Heat emergencies occur when a person’s body overheats from hot temperatures and dehydration.  It is critical to identify early signs of a heat emergency because without early treatment, symptoms can worsen and become life-threatening.  Your quick actions could save a life.

 

 

There are 3 types of heat emergencies in order from least-to-most severe:  

Heat Cramps

Heat Exhaustion

Heat Stroke

 

1) Heat CrampsAn early sign that the body is having trouble with heat.

  • Signs:  painful muscular spasms, usually in the legs or abdomen; often heavy sweating; the patient is awake and in a lot of pain.
  • Treatment:
    • Move the person to a shady or cool spot.
    • If the person is awake and able to swallow, give him slow sips of a drink containing electrolytes and carbohydrates (a commercial sports drink, coconut water or milk), or regular water.
    • Gently stretch the muscle and massage the area to relieve the cramps.
    • If the person becomes confused or unconscious, call 9-1-1.

2) Heat Exhaustion – More serious and can become deadly if left untreated.

  • Signs:  cool, moist skin; headache; dizziness; weakness; nausea.
  • Treatment:
    • Move the person to a shady or cool spot.
    • Remove excess clothing.
    • Spray the person with cool water or apply cool wet cloths, and fan him.
    • If the person is awake and able to swallow, give him slow sips of a drink containing electrolytes and carbohydrates (a commercial sports drink, coconut water or milk), or regular water. Don’t let the person drink too quickly.
    • If the person becomes confused or unconscious, call 9-1-1.

3) Heat Stroke – A life threatening emergency.

  • Signschanged mental status (i.e. confusion, unresponsiveness, seizures); hot skin; vomiting; rapid breathing; difficulty seeing.
  • Treatment:
    • Call, or send someone to call,  9-1-1.
    • Move the patient to a cool area, if possible.
    • Rapidly cool the body using ice or cold water. Consider submerging the patient in a cool bath, or place ice/cold compresses on the neck, armpits and groin. Do not pour water onto the head or face.
    • Continue rapidly cooling the person for 20 minutes or until the person can respond to questions.
    • Do not give the person anything to drink if they are not awake or cannot swallow.
    • If the person starts vomiting, roll them on their side to prevent them from choking.
    • If necessary, begin CPR.

Learn to Save a Life! Take a First Aid CPR AED Course Today!

Visit www.frontlinehealth.com or call 212-983-5389

The outline above is not a substitute for formal First Aid CPR instruction. Please visit frontlinehealth.com for more information on taking a full First Aid CPR AED class.

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