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How To Recognize and Treat Heat Exhaustion

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Updated November 04, 2012

Heat exhaustion is caused by an increase in core body temperature often coupled with fluid loss (dehydration).

It's important to recognize heat exhaustion early and seek treatment as quickly as possible. It does not need to be hot outside for heat exhaustion to occur. Many victims develop heat exhaustion just from exertion.

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if not treated in time.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:

Time Required: One minute to recognize, several minutes to treat.

Here's How:

  1. Stay safe! If the environment is hot enough for the victim to get overheated, then it's hot enough for the rescuers. Follow universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if you have it.

  2. Make sure the patient has an airway and is breathing. Follow the ABC's of first aid.

  3. Move the victim to a cooler environment immediately. Shade is better than sun, air conditioning is better than outside, etc. The cooler the better.

  4. Remove the victim's clothing to encourage heat loss.

  5. If the victim is conscious and able to follow commands, he or she can drink fluids to rehydrate.

  6. If the victim is unable to follow commands (unconscious) or is vomiting, call 911 immediately!

Tips:

  1. For victims of heat illness that have stopped sweating and/or are unconscious, treat for heat stroke.

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