Heat Stress, Heat Stroke & Hypothermia

Heat Stress

Heat stress is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. If heat stress is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.

Warning Signs of Heat Stress

  • Heavy sweating,
  • Paleness,
  • Muscle cramps,
  • Tiredness,
  • Weakness,
  • Dizziness,
  • Headache,
  • Nausea or vomiting,
  • Fainting,
  • Cool or moist skin,
  • Fast & weak pulse, and
  • Fast and shallow breathing.

How to Treat Heat Stress

  • Provide the patient with cool, non-alcoholic beverages using small sips.
  • Help the patient to rest.
  • Cool the patient using whatever methods you can, for example:
    • Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
    • An air-conditioned environment.
    • Loosen clothing.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:
    • Symptoms are severe.
    • The patient has heart problems or high blood pressure.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. During heat stroke, the body’s temperature rises, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.

Warning Signs of Heat Stroke

These may vary but may include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 °F),
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating),
  • Throbbing headache,
  • Dizziness,
  • Nausea,
  • Confusion, and
  • Unconsciousness.

What to Do for Heat Stroke

  • Call for medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Call 911 for Medical Aid and University Police at (360) 650-3911.
  • Get the patient to an air-conditioned or shady area.
  • Cool the patient rapidly using whatever methods you can:
    • Immerse the patient in a tub of cool water.
    • Place the person in a cool shower.
    • Spray the patient with cool water from a garden hose.
    • Sponge the person with cool water.
    • If the humidity is low, wrap the patient in a cool, wet sheet and fan them vigorously.
    • Apply cold packs to armpits, groin, neck and back.
  • If possible, monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 100 °F or less (down to 98.6 °F).
  • Do not give the patient fluids to drink


If patient is hot and sweating, GIVE fluids.
If patient is hot with dry skin, DO NOT give fluids.


Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. This condition may occur in very cold temperatures, but may also happen in milder temperatures when other factors, such as moisture or wind chill are present.

Warning Signs of Hypothermia

  • Uncontrollable shivering,
  • Slow speech,
  • Memory lapses,
  • Frequent stumbling, and
  • Drowsiness and exhaustion.

How to Treat Hypothermia

  • Get medical help immediately.
  • Get the person to a warmer area.
  • Remove wet clothing.
  • Wrap patient in dry clothes you have pre-warmed, if possible.
  • If you cannot get the person to a warmer area, use body heat to help warm them.
  • Do not give an affected person any alcohol or liquids containing caffeine. These will increase the effects of cold on their body.


Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold.

Warning Signs of Frostbite

  • White or pale appearances in fingers, toes, nose or ear lobes,
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, and
  • Numbness.

What to Do for Frostbite

  • Get medical help. Call University Police at (360) 650-3911. If you are off campus, call 911.
  • If possible, immerse affected areas in warm (NOT HOT) water.
  • Do not give a frostbite patient any liquid containing caffeine. Caffeine will cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects cold has on the body.