First Aid for Heat-Induced Illnesses

With summer coming on it seems like a good time to post some first aid tips for heat related problems.  Just remember that it is best to avoid these problems, I will post some articles on this in the future.

Howard

Extreme heat brings with it the possibility of heat-induced illnesses. The following table lists these illnesses, their symptoms, and the first aid treatment.

Condition

Symptoms

First Aid

Sunburn Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches Take a shower using soap to remove oils that may block pores, preventing the body from cooling naturally.  I find that putting pure apple cider vinegar on mild burns is quite effective. Apply dry, sterile dressings to any blisters, and get medical attention.
Heat Cramps Painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles; heavy sweating Get the victim to a cooler location.Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles to relieve spasms.Give sips of up to a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes.  (Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol.)Discontinue liquids, if victim is nauseated.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.  Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.  Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Recognizing Heat Stroke

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

What to Do

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency.  Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim.  Do the following:

  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can.  For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the victim fluids to drink.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

Sometimes a victim’s muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke.  If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids.  If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.  It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat.  Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

The skin may be cool and moist.  The victim’s pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow.  If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.  Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • Symptoms are severe
  • The victim has heart problems or high blood pressure

Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.

What to Do

Cooling measures that may be effective include the following:

  • Cool, nonalcoholic beverages
  • Rest
  • Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • An air-conditioned environment
  • Lightweight clothing

 

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One Response to First Aid for Heat-Induced Illnesses

  1. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    It’s that time of year again
    Camelbak says it best in their motto “Hydrate or Die”

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