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Apply first aid

Exposure to extreme temperatures

Exposure to both excessive heat and excessive cooling can have serious effects on the human body. The two extreme temperatures of heat and cold are referred to as:

Drawing of a thermometer showing hyperthermia 40 degrees C and red pointer going up and hypothermia 38 degrees C and blue pointer going down

Figure 19: Hyperthermia and hypothermia

Hyperthermia (hot or high body temperature)

The two major types of heat related illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is often associated with physical exercise during hot and humid weather or climatic conditions. Heat stroke is a life threatening condition where the body's temperature will continue to rise. If left untreated heat stroke can cause brain damage, coma and eventually death.

Heat Exhaustion Heat Stroke

Risk Factors

  • young and elderly
  • hot humid climates
  • unsuitable clothing

Risk Factors

  • infants in closed cars
  • athletes
  • unfit and overweight
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • older, frail and ill people

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • exhaustion and headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • thirst and stomach cramps
  • dizziness and faintness
  • lack of coordination
  • sweating
  • temperature < 40 degrees C

Signs and symptoms can include:

As per heat exhaustion +

  • confusion and irrational behaviour
  • visual disturbances
  • rapid pounding pulse
  • dry hot skin
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness
  • temperature > 40 degrees C



2. Move to a cool place.

3. Lay casualty down.

4. Loosen tight clothing.

5. Sponge with cool water.

6. Give cool fluids to sip.

7. Monitor closely.

8. Seek medical advice


1. DRABCD and call 000.

2. Give Basic Life Support as required.

3. Remove to a cool place (if appropriate). 4. Lay the casualty down (if unconscious manage in the recovery position).

5. Remove excess clothing.

6. Cold packs to groin, neck and armpits.

7. Give cool fluids ONLY if the casualty is fully conscious.

Caution — Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Call 000 or 112 (digital mobile).

Hypothermia (low body temperature)

Hypothermia is extremely cold body temperature and is often caused by exposure to cold, wind, rain or submersion in water. Young children and older adults are prone to hypothermia, especially when they are not appropriately dressed for the climate, suffering an illness, or have poor access to heating.

Signs and symptoms of hypothermia

Can include:

NOTE: Shivering may cease as the condition worsens.

Management of hypothermia

  1. DRABCD and call for help as soon as possible.
  2. Monitor signs of life very closely.
  3. Give Basic Life Support as required.
  4. Prevent further body cooling (remove wet clothing and replace with dry clothing).
  5. Gently handle the casualty and keep his or her body horizontal.
  6. Gentle and gradual re-warming.
  7. Give warm sweet drinks if the casualty is conscious.
  8. Get medical assistance.

NOTE: Gentle rewarming can be achieved by placing the casualty in a sleeping bag or wrapping with blankets from head to toe. If a sleeping bag or blankets are not available use body-to-body heat.

Caution — Management of hypothermia DO NOT rub or massage affected area. DO NOT apply direct heat. DO NOT give alcohol.


Frostbite is the result of excessive cooling to a body part, usually the extremes of the body such as the fingers, ears, nose and toes.

Signs and symptoms of frostbite

Can include the signs and symptoms of hypothermia PLUS

Management of frostbite

  2. Remove the casualty to a warm or sheltered place (if possible).
  3. Warm the frostbitten area slowly: body to body heat.
  4. Remove constrictive clothing or jewellery.
  5. Cover any blisters with clean dressings.
  6. Move the casualty to a warm place.
  7. Get medical help – call 000 or 112 (digital modile).

Caution — Management of frostbite DO NOT rub or massage affected area. DO NOT apply direct heat. DO NOT give alcohol.

Activity 5

Test your understanding on exposure to extreme temperatures. Click here