How to Help a Victim of Heat Stroke
Heat Stroke Symptoms and Treatment
Heat stroke can be a deadly, life ending event. If you are with someone who becomes a victim of heat stroke, your actions can save their life. As a victim of heat stroke several years ago, I know first hand what the effects of too much heat and sun can do to a body. When it happened to me, I woke up in a creek bed. My co-workers saw me faint and immediately put me in the creek…clothes and all. Mowing the grass in the middle of a Louisiana summer day can really take its toll on the human body. Heat stroke can result in death; learning to recognize the symptoms and how to treat the victim can save their life.
Know the symptoms of heat stroke…
- Hot, unusually dry skin (no longer sweating)
- High body temperature
- Often unconscious or victim has fainted
- Delirious or “out of it” and often confused
- Hallucinations or “seeing things”
- Changed behavior
- Person experience seizures or uncontrollable shaking
Check the victim’s breathing. Make sure the airway is open. Then check the pulse of victim. If they are not breathing and there is no pulse, begin CPR and have someone call 911 immediately.
Cool the victim rapidly. Immerse the victim in a lake or pond if available. If no large body of water is available, spray or sponge the victim, and fan them with fresh air. Pour cool water (not ice water!) on them and move them out of the sun immediately.
Place them in the shade as soon as possible or move them into an air-conditioned building or vehicle. If available, cool victim with ice packs (or cool cloths) at their neck, in their armpits and in the groin area as this is where the blood flow is strongest.
Remove any tight or restrictive clothing and remove shoes and socks. Cooling the feet is an excellent way to cool the body quickly.
Keep a watchful eye. Every 10 minutes, check the victim’s body temperature and condition. Active cooling of the victim can be stopped when the victim shows improvement or their body temperature drops below 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius). Do not allow the body temperature to drop too low or the victim may go into shock. Once the victim has recovered, have them limit their activities and tell them to go check in with their doctor. Resuming activities in the heat can seriously endanger their future health.
Most victims of heat stroke will have difficulty handling extreme heat in the future. If you have been a victim of heat stroke, take every precaution to prevent repeat episodes.
Stay well-hydrated and always check your skin temperature when you are in the heat. If you are no longer sweating in the heat, you may be well on your way to an episode of heatstroke.