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Heatstroke and heat exhaustion

Heatwaves and hot weather can kill. Learn about the signs, symptoms and treatment of heatstroke and heat exhaustion so you can help yourself and others when the temperature soars.

Lady re-hydrating with a bottle of water

Heatwaves can kill, so learn how to stay cool in hot weather and watch for the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here's what to look for and what you can do to help. Note that risk of heat related illness can increase with young children and elderly, pregnancy and those taking certain medications. Here's what to look for and what you can do to help.

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion happens when someone becomes dehydrated due to fluid loss from a hot environment and/or excessive physical activity

Heat exhaustion signs and symptoms

  • Headache
  • Body temperature less than 40 degrees Celsius
  • Muscle cramps
  • Exhaustion and general weakness.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Dizzy spells.
  • Pale, cool, clammy skin at first, becoming flushed and red later.
  • A rapid, weak pulse

Heat exhaustion treatment

  • Help the person to lie down at total rest in a cool or shady area to monitor
  • Remove excessive clothing and loosen any tight clothing
  • Cool by fanning and moisten skin if possible
  • If fully alert and responsive, give them frequent small drinks of water
  • If muscle cramps occur, gently stretch the affected muscles to ease pain
  • If unresponsive, place in the recovery position.
  • If the person is unable to drink vomiting, unresponsive ,or does not improve call 000 for an ambulance
  • Prepare to give CPR if necessary.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and can cause a person to collapse or fall unconscious Heat stroke is more serious and means the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature by cooling the skin's surface by sweating. The internal body temperature rises, and organ damage can occur. 

Heat stroke signs and symptoms

  • Typically no longer sweating. 

  • Red, hot and dry skin. 

  • A body temperature over 40°C. 

  • A rapid, strong pulse. 

  • Rapid, noisy breathing. 

  • Irrational or aggressive behaviour. 

  • Deterioration of the conscious state. 

Heat stroke treatment

  • Call 000 for an ambulance immediately  

  • Cool the person using wet towels or a wet sheet with a fan directed across the surface. 

  • If ice packs are available, wrap them in towels and place them around the neck groin and armpits . 

  • If shivering occurs reduce  active cooling. 

  • Monitor the person continually  

  • If unresponsive or not alert , place in the recovery position. 

  • Prepare to give CPR if necessary. 

For more information, download the Red Cross First Aid App.

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There are simple and practical steps you can take to protect yourself, the people you love, and the things you value most. Do one simple thing to make you safer.

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