I trained at a major Dallas hospital many years ago, before many of you were born. In the summers, ambulances would transport tubs of ice to patients that looked like they might suffer from heatstroke right away.

I’m not sure if they still do it, but heatstroke is still an emergency that kills hundreds each year and leaves many more people disabled. And while cooling is now the most important aspect of treatment, it’s still far more effective in preventing injuries than bandaging or using ice packs to reduce core body temperature.

Heatstroke Symptoms to Look For

Heatstroke is a serious condition that can lead to death if not treated immediately. Recognizing the warning signals of heatstroke (also known as sunstroke) is required in order to know what to do. Your vital organs will shut down with heatstroke. Many individuals even cease sweating. It’s as if your body has had enough (or burned out).

The brain is one of the first organs to be damaged in heatstroke. As a result, many of the symptoms and signals of heatstroke are linked to brain function, such as:

  • Nerve agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Euphoria
  • Seizure
  • Coma

What to Do if You Suspect Heatstroke When You Can Get Help

Call the emergency services at 911 right away. Do not wait to see if someone with heatstroke will recover on their own. The organs are being cooked.

It’s important to keep the person as cool as possible until help arrives. If they’re able to walk and it isn’t fair, get them inside where it’s warm. Otherwise, make them sit in the shade. Remove just their undergarments so that everything else is removed. Sprinkle or bathe them with cold/cold water and fan them slowly. If the individual is out, place them on their side to prevent their tongue from blocking their air passage.

What to Do If You Can’t Get Assistance for Heatstroke When It Hits

But what if there is no ambulance and you can’t receive expert medical care?

Feel free to change the water if you continue seeing bright red signals. If they’re not a fish, first place them in some sort of container filled with cool water and ice. You can also transport the person straight to an AED if it’s possible for you to do so without causing additional harm or increasing their risk of dying. Getting some fluids into them is critical at this point. Your only option is to quickly lower the temperature and give them some liquids. In addition, here are some more ideas:

  • If you have ice, apply a pack to the individual’s groin and armpits, as well as under their neck.
  • Even if it’s accessible, there is a debate about whether someone experiencing heatstroke should be immersed in an ice bath. The problem is that, if their heart stops, performing CPR will be difficult. I believe whatever gets them the coldest and quickest is the best course of action.
  • Wrap a sheet in cold water around their skin and let it soak.
  • Consider them for the evaporative cooling effect.
  • If they’re alert enough, have them drink as much cold water as they can while keeping their heads submerged.
  • Now is the time to offer IV fluids if you have them.

Even if you completely hydrate and cool someone suffering from heatstroke, they will have significant organ damage. As soon as possible, transfer them to a

Heatstroke is an emergency that can kill. Ideally, you would detect heat exhaustion before it turns into heatstroke. Have you or anyone you know ever?

Photo credit: amalsuhair

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