How Do You Treat Heat Exhaustion?
How to Assess Heat Illness
Heat illnesses can happen anywhere, at any time. Though heat illnesses are more common in hot weather, you can even get overheated if you're exercising in heavy clothing in cold weather. If you are assessing a person for a heat illness, check for the symptoms of both heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heat exhaustion may have vague symptoms, such as fatigue, flushed skin, and headaches. Heatstroke is the more severe form, and it requires immediate medical attention. You can treat heat exhaustion at home by cooling the person down, as long as you keep an eye on them.
Looking for Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
Pay attention to heavy sweating.Sweating is the body's way of decreasing its internal temperature. Heavy sweating means the body feels the need to provide ample cooling, but it also means the person is losing a lot of liquid. A person who is sweating heavily could soon get dehydrated and overheat.
Look for dizziness and balance issues.As a person heats up, the heat can affect their thinking. They may feel lightheaded or look off-balance. Ask if they need to sit down, and help them get somewhere shaded or cool.
- The person may also have a headache, a related symptom.
Make note of nausea or vomiting.People with heat exhaustion may throw up or complain of feeling sick to their stomach. If the person is vomiting and showing other signs of severe heat exhaustion, such as dizziness or severe fatigue, get medical help as soon as possible.
Find out if the person has increased thirst.People with heat exhaustion may complain of feeling extremely thirsty or dehydrated.Get them to a cooler place and encourage them to sip some water.
Notice muscle cramps and tiredness.The person may be starting to get dehydrated, which can lead to muscle cramps. They may also be extra tired or fatigued, or look like they can't quite stand up.
Check for a high pulse and increased breathing rate.Heat conditions can increase a person's heart rate significantly. A heart rate over 100 beats per minute is considered high, but anything above the person's normal heart rate is cause for concern. You may also notice the person breathing rapidly.
- Ask the person if they feel like their heart is racing. Also, see if they know what their normal heart rate is.
- To take their pulse, find the vein on the inside of the wrist between the tendon and the wrist bone. Use your index and middle fingers to feel for the pulse. Count heartbeats for 30 seconds, using a watch or timer to check the time. Multiply the heartbeats by 2 to get beats per minute.
Check for pale, clammy skin.When a person's body starts getting overheated, the blood vessels constrict near the skin due to dehydration and low blood pressure. This condition results in pale skin.
- Their skin may even feel cool to the touch.
Take the person's temperature.Use a thermometer to take the person's temperature in their mouth, ear, or armpit. With heat exhaustion, their temperature may be at 100 to 102 °F (38 to 39 °C) as their body gets too warm.
- To take an armpit reading, place the tip of the thermometer in the person's armpit and hold the arm down. For a mouth reading, insert the tip of the thermometer under the tongue near the back of the mouth. For an ear reading, insert an ear-specific thermometer in the ear canal.
- Follow the directions for the thermometer. Digital thermometers often read the person's temperature instantly or within 30 seconds, while a glass thermometer can take up to 5 minutes for a good reading.
Assisting a Person with Heat Exhaustion
Lead them to a cool area to lie down.Find a place with a fan or air conditioning, preferably. If those are not options, at least find a shaded area for the person to cool down.
- Have the person lie down on their back. Prop their feet up a little bit.
Take off extra clothing to cool the person down.Take any clothing off the person that you can, such as extra shirts or sweatbands. Any extra clothing will only make the condition worse.
Offer the person water.Try to get the person to drink as much water as possible. If they have heat exhaustion, they've lost a lot of water, and their body is having trouble cooling itself. Rehydrating can help them cool down.
- Any liquid will help, even sports drinks or juice, though water is best. Avoid anything with caffeine.
- If the person is unconscious, do not try to give them liquids.
Cool the person with damp towels, ice, and water on the skin.You can place the person in a tub with cool water or use damp towels on the neck or damp sheets to cover their skin. Use ice packs in the groin and armpit areas.
- Other options include using a garden hose or a spray bottle to spray water on the person's skin or sponging down their skin with cool water.
Stick around for 30 minutes while the person cools down.While these steps will likely cool the person down, not everyone will respond to this treatment. Therefore, you need to stay nearby to make sure they don't start showing signs of more severe heatstroke.
- If they haven't noticeably cooled down in 30 minutes, take them to the emergency room.
Watching for Worsening Symptoms Leading to Heatstroke
Seek emergency medical attention if you suspect heatstroke.Heatstroke is a potentially life-threatening emergency. If you think someone may have heatstroke, call emergency services or take them to the emergency room right away.
- Someone with severe heatstroke may have to be admitted to the ICU. They will likely need to be treated with IV fluids.
Watch for a rising temperature.Check their temperature periodically. If their temperature has risen to 103 °F (39 °C) or above, it is getting dangerously high and you need to seek emergency medical care.
Look for red, flushed skin that's hot to the touch.While some people may not develop red, flushed skin, it can indicate a worsening condition, particularly if they were pale and clammy before.
- The skin may feel dry or damp to the touch.
Ask if the person is nauseated or has vomited.These symptoms can indicate heatstroke, as can the person losing their appetite. Talk to the person to see if they've noticed these symptoms.
- You could say, "Do you feel nauseated? Have you vomited?"
Pay attention if the person suddenly stops sweating.While heavy sweating is an indicator a person is getting too hot, the sudden absence of sweat means the person has gotten severely dehydrated.
- If the person has been cooling down and drinking water for 10 to 30 minutes, a slow decrease in sweat isn't a cause for concern.
Watch for confusion, slurred speech, and irritation.As the person gets warmer, it can affect their ability to think clearly. You may notice they can't answer your questions coherently or use clear speech, for instance. They may try to fight you off as you attempt to cool them down.
- Be gentle with them, but cool them down and seek medical help.
Look out for loss of consciousness.If a person passes out from the heat, that's definitely a sign their condition is getting worse. If they were standing up or in a chair, slide them gently to the ground before seeking help.
Be especially vigilant with children and elderly people.Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke. Keep a close eye on potentially vulnerable people in situations where they may be exposed to extreme heat or overexertion. If you notice signs of heatstroke, remove them from the situation and seek medical attention immediately.
- Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency. Call emergency services if you have any doubt about the person's condition. Attempt to cool the person down as quickly as possible while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.
- Heat exhaustion can progress quickly into heatstroke. Treat it as heatstroke if the victim's temperature continues to rise, or the victim cannot keep liquids down after a short period.
Video: How to Assess the Three Stages of Heat Illness
25 Insanely Stylish Backpacks to Rock ThisSemester
Roasted Celery and Blue Cheese
Chicken Waldorf Salad
How to Heal Old Wounds
Meet a Fitness Trainer With a Heart for MS
How to Make a Draft Dodger
Weekend Playlist – Rockabilly Inspired Artist Taylor Hollingsworth Shares His Top 10Songs
15 Holiday Cocktails That Will Get You Through the Winter
How to Make Pan Cai
20 Must-Buy Trader Joe’s Products For Quicker Dinners
How to Make Sand Cake
TotalBiscuit, popular YouTube games critic, dies from cancer at 33