Rural & Remote First Aid

 Managing Heat Illness – a very real threat!

Managing Heat Illness – a very real threat!

The body is designed to work in a very narrow temperature range (within a couple of degrees). As such, it works very hard to stay in the optimal temperature range. If a person is too hot or too cold, then the body starts to shut down.

The very young and the elderly are more susceptible to heat and cold related illnesses. Being sick, dehydrated or drinking a lot of alcohol will also increase the risk.

Also, people who are not in their ‘normal’ temperature zone are at risk because they miss the early warning signs ie. The individual from the southern Australian states will be at risk in the northern summer temperatures. Likewise, the northern Australian state resident in the colder environments will be at risk.

If your core temperature is elevated it is known as Hyperthermia (Hyper -high/elevated, thermia – temperature).

Hyperthermia can be caused by:

  • Excessive heat absorption from a hot environment, e.g. being outside in the sun, being stuck in a hot car, wearing dark or thick clothing on a hot day
  • Excessive heat production from metabolic activity, e.g. exercising hard
  • Failure of the body’s cooling mechanisms, e.g. not drinking enough fluid and running out of sweat, taking drugs that affect how your body regulates heat
  • Change in the body’s set temperature, e.g. due to infection/illness.


There are three stages of heat related illness to be aware of:

  1. Heat cramps
  2. Heat exhaustion
  3. Heat stroke

All three stages are serious. Getting treatment in the early stages can prevent heat stroke. The risk of a patient dying from heat stroke can be as high as 70%.

Recognition is the key to treatment with Hyperthermia.

So what do we do?

2 steps.

  1. Remove from the cause – shelter, shade, the coolest place you can find (the cab of an air conditioned vehicle is great!)
  2. Restore core temperature – repeated sips of water (with electrolytes is beneficial), remove unnecessary clothing, fan, pour water on them, cool packs in armpits, groin and neck, etc.

If at any stage you think the person has stopped sweating, please add 1a, Urgent Medical Aid.

Heat Stroke is a medical emergency!

Monitoring urine output is a way to track the bodies liquid levels.


A ‘trigger’ I like to think about is simply this. If I’m hot, my mates are hot. So let’s check on each other. Some properties have instigated a ‘target’ of water consumption by lunchtime. This ensures that fluid levels are at least maintained. Remember, this may not eliminate the problem. But it will sure reduce the risk.

Stay safe out there.

If you would like more information about this topic or any others, purchase any First Aid stock or equipment, or to book a Remote Area First Aid course, please contact us on 0491 057 339 or email

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By Scott Brown

Author bio:

For over 21 years Scott Brown has been training Remote Area First Aid across Australia. Having first joined Rural Ambulance Victoria in 2001 and working in the high-country in Victoria, he began teaching First Aid for Rural Ambulance Victoria. 21 years on, he works with some of Australia’s largest pastoral corporations and property managers that combined manage over 200,000 square kms of the Australian landscape.

Known for conveying detailed First Aid information in a relatable and relaxed way, Scott’s courses have become popular with Pastoral Property Managers, overseers and ringers alike. The highly practical course content ensures relevance to actual situations that are possible to encounter on a working property.

Scott continues to work with Ambulance Victoria alongside his First Aid training. 

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