About Heat Stroke: Treatment and Prevention

Everything must be done to cool the heat stroke victim immediately. The best solution is to immerse the body in cold water, such as a river, stream, or bathtub. Otherwise, remove most of their clothes, douse them with water, and fan them vigorously. Wrapping in wet sheets can help increase the rate of heat loss.

If the victim starts shivering, slow down the cooling treatment, because shivering raises core temperature. Take the person's temperature every 10 minutes if you have a thermometer handy. You should not let the core temperature fall below 100°F (38°C), as this can result in an uncontrollable slide towards dangerously low temperatures (hypothermia). All the while you should be making arrangements to get the victim to an emergency room. Watch for signs of respiratory arrest (breathing failure) and be ready to give mouth-to-mouth rescue resuscitation.

The heat exhaustion victim should also be put in a cool place. Lay them down and give small gulps of liquid every few minutes. "Sports" drinks are best. You should watch carefully for signs of deterioration, but there's no need to rush to a hospital for a normal case of heat exhaustion.

The way to prevent these problems is to drink very large amounts of liquid during heat waves, especially if you're planning on working or exercising outdoors. You shouldn't take salt tablets unless you're also drinking a lot of water. Drink every hour whether you feel like it or not. Thirst is a poor indicator of dehydration. Other prevention strategies include:

  • wearing loose fitting, light-coloured clothes - light colours reflect more sunlight
  • trying to relax in the shade during the hottest part of the day
  • avoiding coffee and alcohol, especially beer, due to their fluid loss effect
  • learning the technique of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation

Learn more about First Aid