• Heat Stroke

    What is Heat Stroke?

    Heat stroke is the least common but most severe heat-related illness. It occurs when the body’s cooling system is completely overwhelmed and stops working. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency.

    Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke

    The person will have mental status changes (such as confusion or loss of consciousness) and may have trouble seeing or a seizure. The person’s skin will be hot to the touch. It may be wet or dry and appear red or pale. The person may vomit. The person’s breathing may be rapid and shallow, and his or her heartbeat may be rapid and weak.

    Emergency Steps


    Check the scene safety, form an initial impression, obtain consent and put on PPE, as appropriate.


    Check for signs and symptoms.

    • Moist, pale or flushed skin*
    • No or some sweating*
    • Rapid, shallow breathing*
    • Seizure*
    • Unresponsiveness*
    • Rapid, weak heartbeat*
    • Confusion*
    • Nausea or vomiting*
    • Headache or dizziness*
    • Weakness
    • Exhaustion

    *Note: Signs and symptoms with a * require immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Call 9-1-1 and get equipment if the person requires immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Give Care.

    General Care: Heat Stroke

    1. After calling 9-1-1, apply one of the following rapid cooling methods based on your resources:
      1. Immediately immerse them up to their neck in cold water if safe to do.
      2. Apply cold, wet cloths or towels to skin; then apply ice packs and fan them.
      3. Have the person take a cold shower.
    2. Continue methods for 20 minutes, until the person feels better or EMS arrives.
    3. Continue checking them as appropriate to determine if additional care is needed.
    4. Give care for shock, if necessary.
    5. Reassure person you will help and EMS has been called (if appropriate).
    6. Watch for changes in condition, including breathing and responsiveness, and give care as appropriate and trained.

    Heat Stroke FAQs

    What environmental temperature is most likely to cause a heat-related illness? Are there other risk factors besides temperature?

    Environmental temperatures that are greater than 100° F (38° C) increase risk. However, if someone is unaccustomed to labor or exercise in the heat, they can develop a heat-related illness at lower environmental temperatures. Other factors, such as humid air, inadequate fluid intake, heavy clothing and personal characteristics (e.g., the presence of certain medical conditions, taking certain medications and the person’s age, especially older adults and young children and infants) can increase the risk for heat-related illness.

    Help Save Lives with an American Red Cross Class

    More than 4.6M people turn to us, the trusted training provider for First Aid, CPR, BLS and more, every year to gain lifesaving skills. Trust us to deliver unmatched lifesaving training that will provide you the confidence and skills to act when moments matter. Training Services is a division of the American Red Cross with the mission to spread knowledge and educate as many members of the national community in lifesaving procedures. Our services include training courses for CPR and AED, First Aid, BLS (Basic Life Support), Babysitting, Caregiving, Lifeguarding Water Safety, and more.

    Information Provided the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC)

    Behind every American Red Cross training program stands the Scientific Advisory Council - a team of experts dedicated to ensuring that what you learn is based on the latest and best emergency science. Visit redcross.org/take-a-class/scientific-advisory-council to see how we work, members, sub councils, scientific reviews, and recent research.

    Download the FREE Red Cross First Aid App

    The free First Aid mobile app by the American Red Cross puts expert advice for common emergencies in the palm of your hand—from the latest First Aid and CPR techniques to the nearest hospital location. Stay up to date on your lifesaving skills. iOS App, Google Play, or text "GETFIRST" to 90999.