Environmental Emergencies – Part 3 “Heat Exposure”

Environmental Emergencies – Part 3 “Heat Exposure”

Following our previous posts about Environmental Emergencies we will now go into “Heat Related Emergencies” and how they can go from bad to worse in only a short period of time.

Just remember that Thermal energy in either direction Hot or Cold will result in levels of severity and symptoms that are very similar but on opposite ends of the spectrum “Fire / Ice“, Lets focus on Heat exposure within the core of your body for this article and explain how a High core temperature can effect treatments .

To help with the explanation of Hyperthermia we must also bring in your “Normal Body Temperature 37C / 98.6F“. “Hyper” literally means “High” and “thermia” temperature, put them together and you get high temperature within your body. Your body has three stages of Hyperthermia “Heat Cramps / Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke” and each stage has its own symptoms until you reach about “41C or 106F” which would typically be unconsciousness.

Heat Exposure & What it looks like:

1) Heat Cramps -“37C to 38C” -Mild muscle contractions that can become severe, usually in the legs and abdomen but can be in other body parts, moist skin.

2) Heat Exhaustion38C to 40C – Raised Body temperature, moist skin, skin that is redder or paler than normal, nausea, dizziness, weakness, exhaustion, head aches and feeling ill. “Most people think this stage is Heat Stroke or Sun Stroke”

3) Heat Stroke39C to 41C – High body temperature, Red, Hot, Dry skin “no longer sweating”, irritable, bizarre, or aggressive behavior, rapid, weak pulse becoming irregular, Rapid, shallow breathing, seizures & progressive loss of consciousness.


  • – Exposure to hot temperatures for too long.

Prevention of Hyperthermia:

“High body temperature”

  • – Drink plenty of cool fluids – This is the most important action you can take to prevent heat related emergencies “Not Energy Drinks”
  • – Avoid being outdoors during the hottest part of the day “around 3 pm”
  • – Slow down your activities as it gets hotter and don’t work or exercise for too long at a time.
  • – Take frequent breaks in a cool or shaded area to let your body cool off. This will help you cope better with short periods of extreme heat.
  • – Dress for the heat and for your activity level.
  • – Wear a hat when you’re in the sun. Wear light colored cotton clothing to absorb sweat and let air circulate and heat escape.
  • – Avoid caffeine and alcohol because they can cause dehydration, which stops your body from controlling its temperature properly.

How to Treat Hyperthermia: “High body temperature”

1) Check the area, once the area is safe, Check the person and ensure the persons ABC’s are present “Airway / Breathing / CirculationREMEMBERWear gloves if available to avoid bodily fluids.

2) Call 911 and get an AED if the heat related injury includes seizures, altered personality, vomiting, unconsciousness or possible heat stroke, or EMS may be delayed.

3) Care for the Heat Exposure by:

Always follow recommendations by your Emergency Response professionals and 911 Dispatch personnel. “Never endanger yourself, you may not need to move the person”

a) If the patient is conscious and able to drink water, have them sip some cool water or electrolyte drinks. “Not energy Drinks

-b) If the patient is conscious have them then rest in a cool place

-c) Have the person loosen any tight clothing and if you are fanning remove any clothing that is soaked with sweat.

-d) Cool the person by putting cool water on the skin and fanning them to increase evaporation.

-e) If you suspect Heat Stroke remember “Hot is Fast / Cold is Slow” If cool water bottles, ice packs, or other cold sources are available put them in each armpit, the groin and the back of the neck. Cool the body any way you can, immerse the body in cool “not cold” water from the neck down. Or you can sponge the entire body with tepid or cool water or fan the person. “Cold water may put the person into shock

-f) If the person is alert, give him or her cool liquids to drink “No alcohol or caffeine”

-g) Continue care until EMS arrive or you seek further medical attention.


  • – Heat related emergencies will get worse without treatment and can change from one level to another very quickly. Never let someone with heat exhaustion or heat stroke “go to bed” without treatment.
  • Febrile Seizure – A febrile seizure occurs when infants and children experience a rapid increase in temperature “Usually up to 40C or higher“. Infants with an “Armpit” temperature of 38C or higher and children with 40C and higher are in “Immediate danger!Call 911 and seek medical attention immediately!
  • – If the person is having a seizure, and has a fever, call 911, keep the person in a safe position, and cool them down any way possible. The seizure often will stop spontaneously within 15 minutes or when the person is cooled down. “Always seek medical attention to rule out further damage”

As you can see, the treatment for heat Exposure in this tutorial is the same regardless of the name “Heat cramps / heat exhaustion or heat stroke“. Once you master the First Aid technique on how to aid a Thermal injury caused from a Heat source you can aid anyone who has been exposed to too much Heat energy. Just remember that it does not matter what the name of the Heat exposure injury is, the treatments are often the same “Hot is Fast & Cold is Slow“. You can help by remembering to “Treat the heat, with cool running water for 10-20 minutes, place cool packs in the armpits, groin and back of the neck, and if the patient is conscious have them sip cool water or electrolyte drinks..

We never know what can happen, its always good to be prepared and have the knowledge we need to help those who need it.

“This material is for information purposes only and is taken from The Canadian Red Cross / Alberta Heart & Stroke Foundation & Alberta Health Services. This information should not be used in place of medical, Technical advice, instructor, and/or treatment. If you have questions, speak to your local Physician or Safety Training Facility.”

Just Remember:

Protect Yourself!!! Call 911!!! Don’t Waste Time!!!

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