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Hyperthermia (Heat Exposure)

Hyperthermia (Heat Exposure)

Heat related injuries include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most severe of these injuries and typically happens when the victim has been performing heavy work or engaging in sports in a very hot environment. The victim usually has been sweating heavily and not replenishing fluids lost to sweating. In addition, some medications and alcohol use may predispose an individual to heat stroke. The main symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Faintness/dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Hot, dry skin or cool, clammy skin
  • Rapid and weak pulse
  • Weakness
  • Altered level of unconsciousness (may lose consciousness)

Untreated heat exhaustion or heat stroke can cause death. Act quickly if you suspect either condition. If you suspect a person has hyperthermia, there are several things you can do to help the victim:

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Move the person to a cooler environment, out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space.
  • Lie the victim down and elevate their legs and feet.
  • Remove restrictive or tight clothing.
  • Begin to actively cool the victim by fanning the person and applying cool compresses to the armpits, neck and groin areas.
  • If the victim is awake enough to drink and is not vomiting, try giving cool liquids to drink. Do NOT give the person alcohol or beverages containing caffeine. Move the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space.
  • If the victim loses consciousness, monitor airway, breathing and circulation and prepare to perform CPR if necessary.
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