Heatstroke: Emergency Symptoms

Heatstroke: Emergency Symptoms

British Columbia Specific Information

Too much heat can be harmful to your health. It can lead to weakness, disorientation, exhaustion, and in severe cases, it can lead to heat stroke. To learn more about heat-related illnesses, visit our Beat the heat health feature.

Topic Overview

Signs of rapidly progressing heatstroke include:

    • Unconsciousness for longer than a few seconds.
    • Convulsion (seizure).
    • Signs of moderate to severe difficulty breathing.
    • A rectal temperature over 40°C (104°F) after exposure to a hot environment.
    • Confusion, severe restlessness, aggressive behaviour or anxiety.
    • Fast heart rate.
    • Sweating that may be heavy or may have stopped.
    • Skin that may be red, pale, hot, and dry, even in the armpits.

    Signs of heat exhaustion that may also quickly lead to heatstroke:

    • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. 
    • Headache, dizziness or feeling faint. 
    • Weakness or muscle cramps, usually in the legs and abdomen. 

After calling 9-1-1 or other emergency services, begin emergency first aid treatment if emergency medical personnel (such as paramedics) are not going to arrive soon.


Other Works Consulted

  • Lipman GS, et al. (2013). Wilderness Medical Society practice guidelines for the prevention and treatment of heat-related illness. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 24(4): 351–361.


Adaptation Date: 1/19/2023

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC