Man suffering from heat outside; Tired worker in the hot weather; Man drinking water

When temperatures are high during the summer months, more people are likely to suffer from heat exhaustion and even heat stroke – especially if they’re playing sports. If heat exhaustion isn’t treated, it can quickly become heat stroke, which can lead to loss of consciousness and constitutes a medical emergency.

How to treat heat stroke

Woman exercising outdoors in the heat

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

If someone’s temperature has risen to 40°C or higher, they will begin to exhibit signs of heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious illness that requires emergency treatment.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:
  • Confusion
  • Lack of sweat despite being hot
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Feeling hot and dry
  • Confusion
  • Suffering a seizure
  • Loss of consciousness
If heat stroke is induced through physical exertion, the casualty may still be covered in old sweat – bear this in mind when considering their symptoms.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

Call emergency services then comfort and cool down the casualty until help arrives. If the casualty becomes unresponsive, ask them clearly to open their eyes then shake their shoulders. If they’re still unresponsive, check their airway and breathing – if they’re breathing, place them in the recovery position, if not, you must administer CPR.

How to treat heat exhaustion

Child sitting outside suffering from the heat  

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Fast breathing Quick pulse
  • High temperature (38°C or higher)
  • Extreme thirst Headache
  • Copious sweating and clammy, pale skin
  • Cramps in the stomach, arms and legs
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Sleepiness (a symptom shown primarily by children)
It’s important that someone exhibiting these symptoms stops any physical activity, moves out of direct sunlight and takes measures to cool down.

Treatments for heat exhaustion

When treating heat exhaustion, your priority should be to cool down the casualty before their condition worsens. Here’s how to treat heat exhaustion:
  • Move the casualty to a cool place (for example: into shade, an air-conditioned room, etc.)
  • Lay the casualty down and raise their feet slightly
  • Ensure they drink lots of water or a sport drink
  • Cool their skin using a sponge or spray them with cool water. You can also use a fan or apply an instant cold pack to their neck or armpits.
Remain with the casualty until they show signs of recovery. You should contact emergency services if their condition does not improve within 30 minutes.

Preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Avoiding heat exhaustion altogether is safer than having to treat it. Take care in hot weather, especially while exercising, and take measures to cool down if you feel ill. Don’t ignore the symptoms of exhaustion.

Measures to prevent heat exhaustion include:
  • Drink plenty of cold fluids, especially while exercising
  • Taking a cold shower or bath
  • Avoid being directly in the sun during the hottest hours of the day (from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M.)
  • Sprinkle water over the skin or clothes
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing
  • Avoid excess alcohol
Avoid intense exercise, especially at midday or during periods of above-average temperatures It’s important to be aware that children, the elderly and those with health conditions like diabetes are more susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke – when the weather is particularly hot, infants and the elderly can suffer heat illness even when at rest.

Read our other blogs for more information on first aid or contact us for further advice and information on our products.

About the author:

Jo Stokes is a writer, marketer and trained first aider at First Aid Online.
Find out more about Jo.