Heatstroke: Recognition. First Aid

Heatstroke or sunstroke is a life-threatening condition, which is connected with the failure in the body’s thermoregulation. It demands immediate medical help. A person is considered to have a heatstroke if his or her body temperature is 104°F (40°C).

What may provoke a heatstroke and who is in the risk group?

Heatstroke develops as a result of durable influence of high temperature (usually in summer heat) in combination with general dehydration of the human organism. A person may have a heatstroke because of

  • Staying long in the sun or in stuffy rooms without air conditioning;
  • Physical load accompanied by excessive sweating;
  • Intake of drugs (particularly ecstasy);
  • People with underlying health problems;
  • Heat exhaustion.

It is considered that children under the age of four and elderly people are more likely to experience a heatstroke. Nevertheless, young and active individuals may also be affected under certain conditions.

What are the symptoms of heatstroke?

The first and the most serious sign of heatstroke is a fever (104°F or 40°C). Unfortunately, not always there is a possibility to measure the body temperature as this condition usually develops unexpectedly and in the open air. That’s why one should evaluate the situation basing on the other symptoms, like

  • Absence of sweat. Because of dehydration the body cannot produce sweat, which means that the natural mechanism of cooling doesn’t work.
  • Dry, hot, flushed skin. Sweat glands cannot produce sweat because of lack of water in the organism thus making the skin dry. And high body temperature makes the blood vessels (including capillaries) wider, so more blood gets close to the skin making it red.
  • Headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting.
  • Increased or lowered heart rate, possibly irregular heartbeat and pulse.
  • Confusion, loss of consciousness;
  • Seizures.

If left without medical attention, the victim may fall into a coma, have a serious damage of the internal organs, which may even lead to death.

What is the algorithm of the first aid in case of heatstroke?

Timely help is vitally important for the person, who has a heatstroke as it may save his or her life. The first thing, which should be done when you notice any signs of a heatstroke in somebody else is to call an emergency number 911/112. In case you are the one who feels bad, tell about it to somebody else and ask him to call for an ambulance.

The following steps should be taken to support the condition of the person by the time the help would come:

  • Move the person in a shady place or to the environment where it is cool;
  • Remove his clothes;
  • Find a wet sheet or a towel to wrap the victim and pour cold water on it to lower his body temperature. If you cannot find any cloth, fan him and apply cold water on the head and wrists;
  • Give him some water to drink in case he is in consciousness. In such cases it is forbidden to use alcoholic beverages and caffeine-containing drinks as they give additional load on heart.
  • If there is such a possibility, measure the person’s body temperature. If it is close to 100.4°F (38°C), then your actions were successful;
  • When the temperature gets down to the norm, replace the wet sheet with the dry one;
  • Check the victim’s pulse, temperature and level of response until the arrival of paramedics.

Try to avoid panic and act with a cool head. All your actions should be quick and confident. You should understand that somebody’s health or even life is in your hands, so don’t hesitate to start giving the first aid to the victim of the heatstroke.

Nobody knows what may happen the next minute, so we should be ready for any situation. Unfortunately, heatstroke is not a rare thing to happen and maybe one day your knowledge will help you to save a life.