The normal body temperature is approximately 37C.
The body has a system, located in the brain stem, which controls and regulates the body’s temperature. When this system is overloaded or not functioning correctly, the body’s temperature can rise.
Hyperthermia is a progressive condition. Rises in the body’s temperature can lead to heat cramp followed by heat exhaustion and then heat stroke if left untreated. Cell injury starts to occur at body temperatures of about 42C.
Heat induced illness may be caused by:
Mild elevation in body temperature is normally controlled with sweating, which allows cooling by evaporation. Once the individual becomes too dehydrated to sweat, body temperature can rise rapidly and dramatically.
Factors which may contribute to heat induced illness include:
The very young and very old are more prone to heat induced illness.
At no time should children, those living with disability or the elderly be left unattended in parked motor vehicles.
On warm, humid or hot days:
First aid providers may need to prepare for the potential for heat induced illnesses for specific high-risk events, such as events held in high temperatures. Preparation for such events should include the ability to measure temperatures and provide first aid management.
Heat induced illness presents with a spectrum of severity. The person may show the signs of exertion (hot, sweaty, and breathless) but also have some of these indicators/red flags:
The lack of sweating is a sign of serious illness, but only seen in a proportion of the more serious cases.
If the person is not responding and is not breathing normally, commence resuscitation following DRSABCD.
The management of heat induced illness is aimed at cooling and hydration. Cooling the person should be done as soon as practical, but should not delay sending for an ambulance. During cooling management, level of consciousness and the ability to maintain an airway should be continuously assessed.
Cooling management should aim to remove the cause and assisting the normal cooling mechanisms of evaporation, conduction, radiation, and convection. Cooling methods will vary depending on availability and circumstance.
While waiting for professional assistance for individuals over 5 years of age:
If this is not available, a combination of the following methods should be used:
While waiting for professional assistance for children 5 years of age and under:
Oral hydration should only be given if fully conscious and able to swallow. Give cool or cold water to drink if fully conscious and able to swallow.