Heat Related Illness : First Aid Measures
Heat related illnesses can quickly turn into potentially fatal heat stroke. Find out its symptoms, causes and learn the appropriate first aid.
Heat illness occurs in hot weather and is a consequence of the body’s inability to cool itself sufficiently through perspiration. It is most likely to occur after hard physical activity in hot weather.
There are several stages of heat illness starting with heat cramps, which can progress right through to the stage of heatstroke, which is life threatening. The early stages of heat illness are characterised by excessive sweating, muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, thirst and weakness. If nothing is done to prevent this early form of heat illness, heat exhaustion can occur, of which the symptoms are dilated pupils, headaches, nausea and vomiting, cool, moist, pale skin, odd behaviour and in some cases unconsciousness. The last stage of heat illness, heatstroke, is by far the most dangerous. Its symptoms include a strong, fast pulse and a very high temperature. There will be a distinct lack of sweat on the skin, which will be red, dry and hot to the touch. The urine of the victim will be dark, and he or she may be breathing in a rapid, shallow manner. They may also seem lethargic, confused, cold and nauseous. They may also lapse into unconsciousness.
The treatment of less serious types of heatstroke is fairly basic. The person should be made to rest in a cool place and given plenty of cool water to drink. If you suspect the person is suffering from heatstroke however, you should immediately call for an ambulance. Give the person the kiss of life if they have stopped breathing. Immediately move them to a cooler area, and lay them down ensuring their feet are raised. You must then attempt to cool the person down. If possible immerse them in cool water. It is likely that you will not be able to do this. If this is the case cool the person with damp cloths, water and fans. If the condition stabilizes you should get the person to drink about 100ml of salted water every 15 minutes. Do not give the victim any medication for fever as this can worsen the condition.
In order to prevent the onset of any form of heat illness you should acclimatize to a hot area over a few days if you are not accustomed to high temperatures. If you do exercise, take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. When you take a break from exercise try and ensure you move to an area of shade. Wear loose fitting clothes in order to help the body breathe. You should also avoid alcohol as this causes dehydration.