Heat-Related Emergencies (what to look for & what to do)!

Summer is here & it can be hot outside. I am not complaining, just sending a word of caution.

A person's condition, during a heat-related emergency, can change quickly (& can be life threatening). Know the the signs & symptoms & what to do to help.



There are 3 levels of heat-related emergencies:

Heat Cramps

What to look for - cramps/muscle contractions in abdomen &/or legs, moist sweaty skin.

Treatment – rest in a cool place, give fluids like juices, sport drinks or water.

Heat Exhaustion

What to look for – exhaustion/tired/dizzy, nausea, moist sweaty skin (that is redder or paler than normal), body temperature may be slightly raised.

Treatment - rest in a cool place, give fluids like juices, sport drinks or water. Remove heavy, tight or sweat soaked clothing. Put cool water on the skin (fanning the skin can also help). Stop all activities in the heat.

Heat Stroke

What to look for – skin stops sweating (can no longer cool itself). NOTE: because this person was sweating before, wipe the sweat off their face & see if it comes back. When skin is "dry", red & hot skin is trouble/life threatening!

Body temperature can be as high as 41C or 106F. 

There is irritable, bizarre or aggressive behaviour. The person is very weak (progressive loss of consciousness). Breathing & pulse can be irregular & seizures are possible.

Treatment for Heat Stroke

- Have someone Call 911 as heat stroke is life-threatening!  Have the person rest in a cool place. If walking down stairs into a cooler area/basement, support the person (they may not be steady on their feet & could fall). Give only small sips of cool water. 

- Cool the body quickly any way that you can. If possible, immerse the body in cool water from the neck down (in this case, don't leave their side as they can become unconscious & drown in less than a minute). Don't use ice cold water (cool them but don't make them shiver). 

- If you don't have a lot of water available, lay the person down on a cool cement or tile floor. Wet their hair & sponge the body with cool water (then fan).  An air conditioned vehicle is another option. Stay with this person until EMS arrives (their condition is serious/life threatening).

- Use ice packs to cool large blood vessels in each armpit, back or neck & groin area (have a thin layer of cloth between the ice pack & skin). A cool cloth on the forehead is also nice/helpful.

People, who have experienced Heat Stroke or Hypothermia in their past, will be at greater risk of getting Heat Stroke (than the average person). If you are tired, sick, young, elderly or have a medical condition; you will also be at greater risk & may not be able to handle the heat. 

Please do not leave children & pets in a car on a hot day...not even for a minute!!! You, your family & your pets should avoid strenuous physical activity in the heat.

When temperatures are extreme, & you have to be outside, be prepared. Wear light clothing & a hat. Dehydration promotes heat emergencies, so pack/drink plenty of fluids (water, Gatorade etc). FYI: caffeine (contained in coffee & soft drinks) & alcohol dehydrate the body & are not recommended. 

Take a break when you need it, slow down, get in the shade & drink fluids. Pay attention to your body. It can still be hot & humid under a shady tree. If you don't feel well, tell somebody. Stay cool & hydrated & stay well! 

Knowing the levels, signs & symptoms & treatment of heat related emergencies will also help to keep your family & co-workers safe (look out for each other)! Have a great Summer!