Did you know heat stroke can be life-threatening?
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition because the body’s temperature can rise far above normal to the point where it stops sweating. The body essentially loses its ability to control temperature, overheats, and the brain and other vital organs, such as the kidneys and heart, begin to fail. Heat stroke usually results from prolonged exposure to a hot, humid, and perhaps poorly ventilated environment. The longer the delay in getting treatment, the higher the risk. Those more likely to suffer from heat stroke are the elderly, and people with poor health, and infants or small children.
The second form of heat stroke, known as heat exhaustion, is caused by excess sweating in hot conditions. If a person with heat exhaustion is not managed appropriately, they can develop heat stroke.
Signs & symptoms of heat stroke
As the temperature rises, it’s important to recognise the signs and symptoms of heat stroke; not to be confused with a fever.
high body temperature of 40 °C or more
flushed, dry skin
pounding, rapid pulse that gradually weakens
visual disturbances (eg double or blurred vision, partial or total blindness, haloes around objects)faintness, dizziness
loss of consciousness
Heat stroke can also be easily confused with heat exhaustion. Just remember, in heat stroke, the skin is hot and flushed and may be dry or wet. Heat exhaustion occurs when someone is exposed to high temperatures which prompt excessive sweating, which leads to salt and water depletion within the body.
First aid for heat stroke
Lowering body temperature is the first and most urgent first aid for heat stroke. The person’s life may well depend on how quickly this can be done.
1. Follow DRSABCD.
2. Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
3. Move the patient to a cool place with circulating air.
4. Help the patient to sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
5. Remove almost all the patient’s clothing, and loosen any tight clothing.
6. Apply a cold pack to areas of large blood vessels such as the neck, groin and armpits, to accelerate cooling.
7. If possible, cover the patient with a wet sheet and fan to increase air circulation. Stop cooling when the patient feels cold to touch.
8. If patient is fully conscious and is able to swallow, give them cool water to sip.
Taking the heat out of the situation
If you’re planning on enjoying the outdoors during warmer weather, there are some steps you can take to avoid heat stroke.
St John Ambulance (Qld) first aid for heat stroke response
St John Ambulance (Qld) provides a range of training programs, and they include skills for responding to someone suffering from heat stroke. With multiple locations across Queensland, as well as some courses found online, St John Ambulance (Qld) can help equip you with the skills to respond to a medical emergency confidently.
When can I take St John Ambulance (Qld) first aid training to learn more about helping someone with heat stroke?
Our first aid training programs are offered year-round. Please visit www.stjohnqld.com.au/Training to find the next available first aid training session in your area.
How do I register for St John Ambulance (Qld) first aid training, including skills for responding to heat stroke?
We offer training courses right across Queensland. Please visit www.stjohnqld.com.au/Training to find the next available first aid training session in your area.
How can I speak to someone at St John Ambulance (Qld) if I have questions or want to find out more?
Please call 1300 ST JOHN (1300 78 5646) Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
For further information:
Ms Paula Price
General Manager – Marketing and Business Services
St John Ambulance Australia Queensland Limited
T: 0417 785 228