Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

October 30, 2023
October 29, 2023

During extremely hot weather, it’s easy to become dehydrated or for your body to overheat. This can lead to life-threatening heat-related illness such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Being able to identify the signs and how to respond are your best chance to recover quickly as possible.

Identify the signs: Dehydration and heat cramps


  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Bright or dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fainting

What to do

  • Drink plenty of water or alternate with diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water).
  • Avoid alcohol and drinks high in caffeine and sugar.
  • Move to a cool place, lie down, and remove excess clothing.
  • Seek medical help if you start to feel unwell.

Heat Cramps

  • Profuse sweating
  • Painful muscle cramps usually in legs and abdominal muscles

What to do

  • Stop activity and sit quietly in a cool place.
  • Increase fluid intake.
  • Rest a few hours before returning to activity.
  • Stretch and gently massage affected muscles.
  • Seek medical help if cramps persist.

Identify the signs: Heat Exhaustion and heat stroke

Heat Exhaustion

  • Raised body temperature
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pale complexion
  • Fatigue, weakness and restlessness
  • Poor coordination
  • Weak, rapid pulse

What to do

Take immediate action to cool down, including:

  • Move to a cool place, lie down, and remove excess clothing.
  • Try a cool shower, bath or sponge bath and place a moist, cool cloth on forehead, wrists, sides of neck, underarms and groin area, fan continuously.
  • Give small sips of cool water or diluted fruit juice or cordial (1 part juice in 4 parts water).
  • If recovery isn’t quick or vomiting occurs, seek emergency medical assistance.

Heat Stroke

This is a more severe and dangerous form of heat-related illness.

  • Confusion, poor coordination or slurred speech
  • Hot dry skin, possibly not sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Dry, swollen tongue
  • Extremely thirsty
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Seizures or loss of consciousness

What to do

This is a medical emergency - call triple zero 000 immediately, then:

  • Check the person’s airway, breathing and pulse – if unconscious, position them on their side and commence CPR if required.
  • If possible, move them to a cool place, lie them down and remove excess clothing.
  • To cool the body place moist, cool cloths on their forehead, wrists, sides of neck, underarms and groin area and fan continuously.
  • Give small sips of fluids if conscious and able to swallow.
  • Do not give any medications unless prescribed by a doctor.

Read more about staying safe during summer.

More information about Heat Safety

If you need medical advice during the heat, call 13 HEALTH (13 432 584) or in the case of an emergency, always call triple zero (000).

Working together to take climate action

Queensland Government logo

BlueCare’s heat health resources were funded by the Queensland Government under the Sector Adaptation Plan co-investment program, to advance climate change resilience in the human health and wellbeing sector. This is another example of how the Queensland Government's Climate Action Plan is making a difference.

Griffith University logo

BlueCare extends thanks to Griffith University for their partnership and extensive work to improve heat health awareness and resilience in Queensland, particularly for older persons. Learn more about Griffith University’s Extreme Heat and Older Persons (EtHOS) Project.

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