When people get heat stroke (also known as sun stroke), their body temperature rises above what it normally should be. They would most likely feel nauseous, fatigued, weak and dizzy. They may also complain of headaches and muscle pain. In extreme cases, victims of heat stroke may have difficulty breathing, a rapid heart rate, and can become confused or agitated.
Disclaimer: Always get help from those around you, or seek medical attention when you encounter someone with a heat stroke. If help is delayed, here are a few guidelines you can abide by for the treatment of the victim.
(For the purpose of clarity in this article, let’s call the victim of heat stroke ‘Joe’.)
There are four R’s in the immediate treatment for heatstroke:
1. Relaxing, cool environment
Bring Joe to a quiet, shady area or an air-conditioned place. Usually people who feel hot get rid of the heat energy in their bodies by sweating, but sometimes, their bodies are unable to dissipate the heat fast enough, resulting in a heat stroke. Therefore, we need to change the environment in order for them to cool down.
As Joe may also become overwhelmed by surrounding noise, it is also preferable to find a less crowded place to help him feel more relaxed.
2. Remove clothing
Help Joe remove tight clothing or top layers, if possible. Light, loose clothing allows air to pass along the surface of the skin. It speeds up the evaporation of sweat from the body and carries off excess heat.
If it is not possible to remove his top, try to remove any other item of clothing or accessories that may be preventing Joe’s body from releasing heat; hat, shoes, socks etc.
3. Reduce heat fast
Spraying Joe with cool water or applying damp sheets to his forehead and limbs will enable him to cool down even further. Using an electric fan – or fanning him directly with an item – replaces the hot, humid air on his skin with cooler, drier air, which helps him sweat.
If available, you can also place ice packs in his cheeks, palms, and on the soles of his feet to help him quickly cool down. This is because there is micro-circulation in these areas, so heat can be transferred through them more efficiently. You can also apply ice packs to Joe’s armpits, groin, neck, and back. As these areas are rich with blood vessels, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
To prevent dehydration, encourage Joe to drink plenty of fluids. Because he loses salt through sweating, drinking sports beverages with electrolytes can be a better option, as these help replenish salt and water. Remember to ask Joe whether or not he is on a restricted fluid/salt intake beforehand.
Don’t offer sugary, alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, as excessive amounts can cause dehydration.
If Joe does not appear to be recovering, or his situation is worsening, notify emergency services immediately.