Introduction: How to Treat Heat Exhaustion

There are three common heat injuries that someone can suffer from and they are: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat cramps are the least serious, heat exhaustion is more significant than heat cramps, and heat stroke is very severe and life threatening. The purpose of these instructions is to provide basic knowledge of how to identify and treat HEAT EXHAUSTION. Knowing these instructions can help individuals treat casualties of heat exhaustion and possibly prevent a more serious heat injury like heat stroke. Now lets move on and look at some signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Note: These instructions are only meant to provide knowledge about heat exhaustion and do not supersede the need of or instructions from healthcare professionals.

Step 1: Identify Heat Exhaustion

Here are some signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Dizziness or weakness with a headache or nausea
  • Cool, moist, and pale skin
  • Dry mouth and thirsty
  • Heavy sweating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • For heat exhaustion, vital signs are usually normal, but the pulse may be slightly elevated
  • For heat exhaustion, the body temperature is usually normal (98.6°F) and may also be slightly elevated

Heat exhaustion and these symptoms most often occur during heavy activity in hot, humid, or poorly ventilated environments while sweating heavily. Heat exhaustion can also occur with very old or very young individuals that are at REST in hot, humid environments. Also, individuals who are new to the hot environment and have not acclimatized could fall victim to heat exhaustion while at rest, so beware. Now that we know what to look for to identify heat exhaustion, lets look at some basic steps to treat this heat injury.

Step 2: Remove Excess Layers of Clothing

Once heat exhaustion has been identified, have the individual remove excess layers of clothing, especially around the neck and head. These layers are just antagonizing the heat injury and should be removed.

Note: Do not force an ALERT heat exhaustion casualty to remove excess clothing if they do not want to, just stress the importance and help them if they need it.

Step 3: Remove Individual From Hot Environment

Remove the individual from the hot environment to a cool environment. If they are in the sun, move them to the shade. If an air conditioned environment is near, help them make their way to the A/C environment.

Step 4: Lie Down to Rest

Ask the individual to lie down in the supine position (on their back) and then elevate their legs around 8-12 inches, this position will help combat symptoms of shock by promoting better blood flow to vital organs.

Step 5: Loosen Tight Clothing

After the individual has laid down to rest, loosen their restrictive clothing such as shoes, belts, and collars. This step will help promote better blood circulation.

Step 6: Give Water If Alert

After the individual has rested for a while and cooled off, ask them to sit up and try to slowly drink water or other hydrating liquids, stop if they become nauseated. Never force someone to drink hydrating liquids who is not fully alert.

Caution: Do not give liquids by mouth while the patient is laying in the supine position (on their back), this could cause the individual to draw fluid into their lungs, thus compromising their airway.

Step 7: Nauseated After Water

If the individual becomes nauseated after drinking, ask them to lay back down to rest, but this time in the recovery position (on their side) due to the possible event of vomiting.

Step 8: Possible Transportation to Medical Facility

Performing the previous steps mentioned will usually reverse the symptoms of heat exhaustion and the individual will most often feel better within 30 minutes. If the person does not feel better within 30 minutes, level of consciousness decreases, or the individual is very old or very young, then you may need to call an ambulance and or transport them to the nearest medical facility.

Note: Do not hesitate when seeking proper professional medical care, it is always better to play it safe when it comes to someone's health and safety.

Step 9: Conclusion and Reference

Congratulations! With this basic knowledge you should be better prepared to identify and treat heat exhaustion.

Step 10: Reference

Some information for this instructable was acquired from the big orange book. See work cited below for information about the B.O.B.

work cited

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured, Ninth Edition. Jones and Bartlett, 2005.