Heat Exhaustion First Aid: What to Do and What Not to Do


As the temperatures rise during the summer months, heat-related illnesses become a significant concern. One such condition is heat exhaustion, which can occur when the body overheats due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures or intense physical activity. Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention and appropriate first aid to prevent it from escalating into a more severe condition like heatstroke. In this article, we will discuss what to do and what not to do when providing first aid for heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion First Aid: What to Do and What Not to Do

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion:

Heat exhaustion can affect anyone, but it is more common in individuals who work or exercise outdoors, older adults, and those with chronic health conditions. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion is crucial in providing timely assistance. The common indications include:

  1. Heavy sweating
  2. Weakness and fatigue
  3. Dizziness or lightheadedness
  4. Headache
  5. Nausea or vomiting
  6. Muscle cramps
  7. Cool, moist skin with goosebumps despite the heat

What to Do:

  1. Move to a cooler environment: If you suspect someone is experiencing heat exhaustion, it is essential to get them out of the heat immediately. Find a shaded area or an air-conditioned space to provide relief from the high temperatures.
  2. Encourage hydration: Give the affected person cool, non-alcoholic beverages to drink. Water or sports drinks with electrolytes can help replenish fluids and restore the body's electrolyte balance.
  3. Loosen clothing: Remove or loosen any tight or unnecessary clothing to facilitate better air circulation and aid in cooling the body.
  4. Apply cool water: Wet the person's skin with cool water and use a fan or create air movement to enhance the cooling effect. Applying cold packs or wet towels to the neck, armpits, and groin area can also help bring down the body temperature.
  5. Elevate the legs: If the person feels faint or lightheaded, have them lie down and elevate their legs slightly to improve blood flow to the brain.
  6. Seek medical assistance: While providing first aid for heat exhaustion can be helpful, it is crucial to seek medical attention, especially if the symptoms worsen or do not improve within 30 minutes. Healthcare professionals can assess the individual's condition and provide appropriate treatment.

What Not to Do:

  1. Do not ignore the signs: Heat exhaustion should never be taken lightly. Even if the symptoms seem mild, it is important not to overlook them. Prompt action can prevent the condition from escalating into a life-threatening heatstroke.
  2. Avoid exposure to heat: Do not allow the person to remain in a hot environment or engage in strenuous activity. Continued exposure to high temperatures can worsen the condition and increase the risk of heatstroke.
  3. Do not give alcohol or caffeine: Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages can contribute to dehydration, worsening the symptoms of heat exhaustion. It is best to provide cool water or electrolyte-rich drinks instead.
  4. Avoid rapid cooling methods: While it may be tempting to use ice or ice-cold water for cooling, it is not recommended. Rapid cooling can constrict the blood vessels and interfere with the body's natural heat dissipation process. Stick to cool water or moist towels for gradual cooling.


Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that requires immediate attention and proper first aid. By recognizing the signs and taking appropriate action, we can assist individuals experiencing heat exhaustion and prevent it from progressing to heatstroke. Remember to move the person to a cooler environment, encourage hydration, loosen clothing, apply cool water, and seek medical assistance when needed. Avoiding certain actions like ignoring the signs, exposure to heat, and inappropriate beverages can help ensure a safe and effective response to heat exhaustion. Stay vigilant, stay cool, and prioritize the well-being of yourself and others during hot weather conditions.

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