Heat Related Emergencies

Most heat-related emergencies occur when victims engage in vigorous exercise.  Mild heat-related signs are a warning that the victim’s condition may worsen without action.  Symptoms of heat-related emergencies may increase if left untreated.

Heat Cramps 
  • Signs and Symptoms
    • Painful muscle cramps, usually in the calves, arms, stomach muscles and back
    • Sweating
    • Headache
  • Caring for Heat Cramps
    • Assess the scene for safety
    • Apply PPE
    • Advise the victim to lie down, rest and cool off
    • Stretch cramped muscle
    • Provide drink that contains electrolytes, such as juice or a sports drink
      • Give the victim water if the others are not available
    • A cool ice pack may be applied to the sore muscle for up to 20 minutes, if the victim can tolerate it.  
    • Call or direct a bystander to call EMS if victim’s condition does not improve
    • Monitor breathing
  • If victim becomes unresponsive or has agonal breathing (irregular, shallow or gasping) or is not breathing at all – begin CPR
    • Continue CPR cycles until EMS arrives, a second rescuer takes over or you are too tired to continue
    • If you do not know CPR begin “Hands Only” compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute
Heat Exhaustion
  • Signs and Symptoms 
    • Heavy sweating
    • Severe thirst
    • Headache
    • Feeling faint
    • Muscle cramps
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
    • Fatigue
  • Caring for Heat Exhaustion
    • Stop activity and rest in a cool place
    • Remove excess or tight clothing
    • Provide drink that contains electrolytes, such as juice or a sports drink
    • Give water if other drinks are unavailable
    • Advise victim to lie down, raise legs 6 to 12 inches
    • Apply cool damp cloths to the neck, armpit and groin area, if possible
    • Spray with a cool water spray, if possible
    • Call or direct a bystander to call EMS if victim’s condition does not improve
    • Monitor breathing
  • If victim becomes unresponsive or has agonal breathing (irregular, shallow or gasping) or is not breathing at all – begin CPR
    • Continue CPR cycles until EMS arrives, a second rescuer takes over or you are too tired to continue
    • If you do not know CPR begin “Hands Only” compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute
Heatstroke
  • Signs and Symptoms
    • Appears very similar to heat exhaustion, but can be very life threatening
    • Extremely hot, dry skin
    • Dizziness and confusion
    • Seizures
    • Unresponsiveness
    • Fainting
  • Caring for Heatstroke
    • Assess the scene for safety
    • Call or direct bystander to call EMS
    • Ask if you can help
    • Apply PPE
    • Begin cooling the victim immediately
    • Place in cool water up to neck, if possible
    • Cool with a cool water spray, if possible
    • Stop cooling the victim once behavior is normal again – continued cooling can lead to hypothermia
  • If the victim is able to drink 
    • Provide drink that contains electrolytes, such as juice or a sports drink
    • Give water if other drinks are unavailable
  • If victim is unable to drink
    • Remain with victim until EMS arrives and takes over
  • If victim becomes unresponsive or has agonal breathing (irregular, shallow or gasping) or is not breathing at all – begin CPR
    • Continue CPR cycles until EMS arrives, a second rescuer takes over or you are too tired to continue
    • If you do not know CPR begin “Hands Only” compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute

Cold Related Emergencies

Cold-related injuries usually occur when a victim is exposed to cold weather conditions without proper protection, however hypothermia can also be a symptom of a treatment for severe burns or heat related injuries. 

Frostbite
  • Signs and Symptoms 
    • Skin becomes white, waxy or grayish-yellow
    • Damaged skin is hard and does not move when pushed
    • Damaged skin is cold and numb
  • Caring for Frostbite 
    • Assess the scene
    • Call or direct a bystander to call EMS
    • Ask if you can help
    • Apply PPE
    • Move the victim to a warm place
    • Remove tight clothing and jewelry from the frostbitten area
    • Remove wet clothing 
    • Pat the body dry
    • Put dry clothes on the victim, if possible
    • Cover with a blanket
    • Do not try to thaw the frozen part if you think there may be a chance of refreezing
    • Try not to touch the frostbitten area
    • Do NOT rub the damaged area
    • Remain with victim until EMS arrives
  • If victim becomes unresponsive or has agonal breathing (irregular, shallow or gasping) or is not breathing at all – begin CPR
    • Continue CPR cycle until EMS arrives, a second rescuer takes over or you are too tired to continue
    • If you do not know CPR begin “Hands Only” compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute
Hypothermia (Low Body Temperature)  
  • Signs and Symptoms
    • Hypothermia is a serious condition that can lead to death.  A victim can develop hypothermia in above freezing temperatures.  
    • Skin is cool to the touch
    • Shivering stops
    • Victim is confused and/or drowsy
    • Change in personality or behavior
      • Unconcerned with condition
    • Muscles become stiff and rigid
    • Skin becomes ice cold and blue
    • Advanced stages of hypothermia
    • Victim becomes unresponsive
    • Breathing slows
    • Victim may appear dead
  • Caring for Hypothermia
    • Assess the scene for safety
    • Call or direct a bystander to call EMS
    • Ask if you can help
    • Apply PPE
    • Move the victim out of the cold
    • Remove wet clothing
    • Pat the body dry
    • Put dry clothes on, if possible
    • Cover with a blanket and any other coverings you may have
    • Cover the head, but not the face
    • Place victim near a heat source and place containers of warm – not hot – water in contact with the skin
    • Remain with victim and record any changes
    • Report changes to EMS when they arrive
  • If victim becomes unresponsive or has agonal breathing (irregular, shallow or gasping) or is not breathing at all – begin CPR
    • Continue CPR cycle until EMS arrives, a second rescuer takes over or you are too tired to continue
    • If you do not know CPR begin “Hands Only” compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute