First Aid for Heat Wave - Symptoms and Preventive Measures
Healthy Living

First Aid for Heat Wave

Dr.Shravanthi V profile Authored by Dr.Shravanthi V on 1 Mar 2016 - 11:05.


Heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive hot weather and is often accompanied by high humidity. It can be dangerous and even life-threatening for people who avoid taking proper precautions.

The human body normally cools itself by sweating. During very hot and humid weather, sweating alone is not enough to cook the body temperature and so it can rise as the sweat evaporation is slowed down and the body works extra hard to maintain normal temperature. This can harm the brain and other essential organs.

Older adults and young children; overweight individuals and those who are sick are more liable to succumb to extreme heat or heat stroke. Heat-related illness is induced by poor air quality and stagnant atmospheric conditions. The urban population is at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave, than those residing in rural areas.

“Extreme heat can be dangerous, particularly for the very young and old, but by being prepared you can spot the early warning signs and potentially be the difference between life and death in an emergency, said Clive James, Training Development Manager at St John Ambulance.” Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most serious problems that can develop when the mercury soars to the extent that people can spot the signs, such as headache and dizziness. Below is the first aid treatment guide to manage heat wave illness:

First aid for heat wave:

  • Take the person in a shady place and provide them plenty of water to drink
  • Put the person in a cool tub of water or a cool shower.
  • Then spray cool water with a garden hose and sponge
  • Fan while misting with cool water.
  • Apply ice packs or cool wet towels on the neck, armpits, groin and then cover with cool damp sheets.
  • Provide non-alcoholic beverages such as electrolyte water or any fruit/ vegetable juice to drink
  • Keep checking their temperature as well as their breathing, pulse and level of response.
  • If they start getting hot again, repeat the cooling process to lower their temperature till the person can be taken to the emergency at a hospital.

    According to CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heatstroke – It is a critical condition in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes. Symptoms here include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness
  • Heat exhaustion - an illness that can precede heatstroke. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse.
  • Heat cramps – Symptoms include muscle pains or spasms that occurs during heavy exercise
  • Heat rash - skin irritation due to excessive sweating

Other symptoms include:

  • Changes in mental behavior, such as confusion, agitation, slurred speech
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fainting, which may be the first sign in older adults
  • Fluctuating blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Lack of consciousness

Preventive measures:

  • Avoid outdoor activity when temperatures are high. Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun
  • Consume good amount of fluids when working outdoors
  • Keep splashing water on your body while working outdoors
  • Cut down on alcohol, coffee and soda.
  • Wear light- colored and loose-fitting clothes because dark colors absorb sun’s rays faster.
  • Wear sunglasses and hat to protect yourself from the sun
  • Air-conditioning is a protective factor against heat-related illness and death.
  • Spend the warmest part of the day at home, office, or in libraries, shopping malls and other community facilities.
  • Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.


Reference: Centers for Disease and Prevention;


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