Heat & Cold Emergencies
Heat Related Emergencies
- Faintness, dizziness
- Possible nausea and vomiting
- Normal mental status
- Severe muscle cramps/pain
Treatment: Get patient out of the hot environment, cool the patient, remove tight clothing, and give water if tolerated.
- Moist and clammy skin
- Weak, dizzy or faint
- Nausea and vomiting
Treatment: Get patient out of the hot environment, remove clothing as necessary, gently cool the patient, give water if tolerated. Full body immersion in cool water is also acceptable if it can be done safely. If patient does not improve or becomes unconscious, activate EMS, check and correct ABC.
- Unconscious or nearly unconscious
- Dry or wet skin, usually red
- Very high body temperature
Treatment: Activate EMS immediately, get patient out of the hot environment, check and correct ABC, remove clothing as necessary, gently cool the patient, give nothing to drink or eat. Full body immersion in cool water is also acceptable if it can be done safely.
Cold Related Emergencies
Factors that affect onset
- Weather severity
- Pre-existing medical condition
- Alcohol or drug consumption
Hypothermia tends to progress in stages starting from mild signs to severe. The earlier signs are recognized and treated, the better the outcome.
- Feeling of numbness
- Slow breathing
- Slow pulse
- Slurred speech
- Decreased levels of consciousness
- Hard, cold, painless body parts
Treatment: Get patient out of cold environment. Gently rewarm by removing wet clothing and covering patient with a dry blanket. If patient does not improve, shows decreased level of consciousness or becomes unconscious, activate EMS.
- Waxy looking, discolored, numb, swollen extremities (usually fingers and toes) after prolonged exposure to cold.
- Blisters may occur in severe cases.
Treatment: Seek immediate professional medical help. Do not rub the affected area. Do not rewarm area if chance of refreezing exists. Rewarm with warm water, not hot.
Special Considerations for Hypothermia
If the victim is unresponsive with no breathing or no normal breathing, and suspected to be in hypothermia, healthcare providers would follow the normal steps for CPR and take a few extra steps.
- Check for a pulse for no more than 10 seconds.
- If no pulse, begin CPR without delay
- AED should be used as normal
- Do not wait to check the victim’s temperature
- Do not wait until the victim is rewarmed to start CPR
- Wet clothes should be removed from the victim to prevent further heat loss
- Shield the victim from wind or cold
- Avoid rough movement and handle person gently
- Passive warming, such as warm blankets and heat packs, can be used until active warming is available with advanced medical care