Heat emergencies can be classified into the following categories
- Heat syncope
- Heat cramps (caused by loss of salt)
- Heat exhaustion (caused by dehydration)
- Heat stroke (sun stroke)
I. Heat syncope (fainting)
Fainting or syncope is a mild ill effect of heat and can occur due to any condition which can cause a reduction in the supply of blood to the brain.
- Simple faint may be preceded by weakness, giddiness, nausea and dizziness.
- Pale skin.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Slight twitching.
- Make the patient lie flat or sit with the head bent forward.
- Cool the room.
- Recovery usually occurs within 5 – 10 minutes. Arrange for medical help if there is complete loss of consciousness or if fainting is accompanied by any other symptoms.
II. Heat cramps
Heat cramps are muscle pain or spasm usually caused due to loss of salts in the body. They mostly occur in people who do heavy muscular activity in hot and humid environments.
- The victim should stop all activities and make himself comfortable in a cool place.
- A glass of clear juice or a sports beverage is helpful.
- Strenuous activity should be avoided for at least for a few hours after the cramps subside.
- If cramps do not subside within 1 hour, or if the victim has a history of cardiac problems or arteriosclerosis then professional medical attention is required.
III. Heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion occurs due to an excessive loss or imbalance of salt and water in the body. It may occur because of a very hot and humid environment. In such cases, the body temperature may be normal or if elevated, would not exceed 102 F.
- Muscle cramp
- Loss of appetite
- Pulse rate may be fast and weak
- Make the victim lie down in a cool and comfortable place. Raise the legs with a little support to improve the blood flow to the brain.
- Help the victim sip a cool beverage with a little salt.
- If there is loss of consciousness, arrange for medical help immediately.
IV. Heat stroke
During a heat stroke, the heat regulation mechanism fails. Heat stroke can occur because of prolonged exposure to very hot environment or due to a long illness which involves high fever. This can also occur in athletes who perform vigorous exercise in a hot weather. Sweating may be absent or diminished but profuse sweating may also occur.
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irrational behavior
- Dry, hot and flushed skin
- Body temperature above 40ºC / 104ºF
- Shift the victim to a cool place.
- Wrap the victim in cold wet sheet to reduce the body temperature. Sponge the skin with cold water. Carry out this procedure till the body temperature falls to 100ºF.
- Once the victim’s temperature drops to about 100ºF, replace the wet sheet with a dry sheet.
- Observe the victim’s body temperature. If the temperature rises again, repeat the cooling procedure.
- The victim should be given some cool salt beverage / water to sip.
- If the victim becomes unconscious, check breathing and pulse. Provide resuscitation, if necessary. Arrange for medical help or take the victim to a doctor immediately.
- You should watch for signs of shock while waiting for medical attention.