When our body is exposed to a hot environment, our thermo-regulatory mechanism will automatically step up the cooling process by increasing sweating and breathing rate.  Simultaneously, water and salt which are the essential elements for maintaining normal body function are lost in the form of perspiration.

Heat Exhaustion

Thus, people undergoing prolonged strenuous outdoor activities in hot environment are prone to develop heat exhaustion as a result of fluid loss, electrolyte imbalance and inadequate perfusion to organs.  When heat exhaustion occurs, the victim may have the following signs and symptoms:

l          Dizziness

l          fatigue

l          Nausea

l          Vomiting

l          Rapid heart beat

l          Profuse sweating

l          Thirsty

l          Muscle cramping


If victim of heat exhaustion does not take timely measures to avoid further exposure, a more dangerous situation – heatstroke may follow.  Under the circumstances, the body’s thermo-regulatory mechanism breaks down completely and the body temperature may reach a fatal level.  Signs and symptoms of heatstroke are:

l          Hot and flushed skin

l          Body temperature may be over 40.6 oC (105 oF)

l          Altered level of consciousness

When heatstroke is suspected,

l          Move the patient to a cool place

l          If level of consciousness is altered, place the victim on lateral position to maintain airway.  Dial ‘999’ to call for an ambulance.

l          Initiate cooling as soon as possible:

u        Wipe cool water on skin

u        Vigorously fan the patient

u        Place ice on special areas like groins, armpits and sides of neck

l          Stop the cooling when the patient starts to shiver


l          Not to wipe alcohol on skin

l          Give nothing by mouth unless the victim regains full consciousness


1.      Avoid undergoing prolonged strenuous activity in hot and humid weather as far as possible.

2.      If it is unavoidable for you to work in a hot environment, you should take the following precautionary measures:

-             wear light-weight, loose-fitting clothing

-             take rest in a cool place intermittently

-             replenish body fluid by regularly taking lightly-salted water or fruit juice

-             not to consume alcoholic beverages

Information provided by Fire Services Ambulance Command Training School(11/2002)

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