Safety and first aid

First aid for heat stroke

Warning

Heat stroke is an uncommon but life threatening complication of grossly elevated body temperature with exercise in heat stressed settings.

Signs and symptoms

The first signs of heat stroke show in the function of the brain and nervous system.

In conditions likely to cause heat-related health effects always suspect heat stroke if a person becomes acutely unwell or collapses, especially if they don’t recover promptly on lying flat with the legs elevated. Although there are many possible causes of acute illness or collapse, heat stroke is one of the most important.

Look for any of: confusion, incoherent speech, abnormal walking, coma or seizures

Managing heat stroke

Heatstroke is an extreme medical emergency. If not treated immediately, it can lead to permanent damage to vital organs, or even death. Dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance and stay with the person until the ambulance arrives.

While waiting for the ambulance to arrive:

  • STRIP the person of as much clothing as possible
  • SOAK with any available water
  • FAN vigorously by whatever means possible – improvise, e.g. use a clipboard, bin lid.
When available, cool or ice water immersion is the most effective cooling means possible:

  • IMMERSE the person up to the neck in a cool or ice bath OR
  • COVER all of the body with ice water soaked towels that are changed frequently as an alternative if a bath isn’t available but ice is.
REMEMBER: it is early recognition and first aid in heat stroke that is critical to save a life.

Where to get help 

  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance. 


Acknowledgements
Public and Aboriginal Health Division, Department of Health