See the Heat Cramps or Heatstroke texts via the Disease List for information specific to the other stages of heat illness.
First Aid Guide
Use a combination of the following measures depending on the circumstances and means available:
- Have the person rest, legs slightly elevated, in a shaded area or cool or air-conditioned building, room, or car.
- Remove or loosen the person's clothes.
- Give the person an electrolyte drink, such as Gatorade® or Pedialyte®, or water if not available. Do not give beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol. Note: You can make a salted drink by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to one quart of water.
- Pour water over the person or spray with a hose. Note: Do not do this if the person is disoriented.
- Wrap the person in wet cloth, and position a fan toward him/her. Evaporation of water on the skin aids in cooling.
- Apply cold compresses (eg, to neck, armpits, groin).
Those on certain medications can suffer from heat illness, as well, as medications can alter the way the body handles heat and sun. Those who drink alcohol before, during, or after vigorous activity are more susceptible to heat illness, as are people who work or exercise excessively, coupled with profuse perspiration and inadequate fluid intake.
Even those in excellent health can have heat illness if early symptoms are ignored.
You can differentiate the moderately severe form of heat illness, heat exhaustion, from more- or less-severe forms by comparing the person's symptoms described above to the following:
- Heat cramps – Painful muscle cramps (eg, in the legs, arms, abdomen, or back), heavy perspiration, and general weakness/lightheadedness.
- Heatstroke includes some or all of the following symptoms:
- A high body temperature (above 102° F)
- Skin that is red and hot with lack of sweating (sweating that has stopped)
- Small pupils
- A rapid, weak pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Extreme confusion or irritability
The physician will rehydrate the patient gradually by either giving an electrolyte drink or intravenous fluids.