How to treat Sunstroke, Hypothermia, and Dehydration

Nick Oetken

Dehydration, sunstroke, and hypothermia are among the biggest killers in survival situations. If you ever find yourself out in the wild and trying to find your way back to civilization, you cannot afford to let any of these things slow you down or stop you entirely.

We will teach you how to prevent sunstroke, hypothermia, and dehydration from happening, and then also how you can treat them if they do occur.


Hot in the sun

Sunstroke, also known as heatstroke, is classified by almost all medical professionals a form of medical emergency and is the worst type of heat injury that you can sustain. The reason why sunstroke is so dangerous is because it damages your brain and your internal organs. Older people tend to be more susceptible to it, but even young and athletic people are not invulnerable.

Sunstroke will begin as heat exhaustion, another similar but less severe illness that develops from extended exposure to excessively high temperatures and dehydration. If this illnesses goes without treatment and becomes worse, it can develop into sunstroke. For this reason, immediately seek shade and drink plenty of water if you’ve fainted as a result of heat or are feeling exhausted or suffering cramps from the heat. If you do this, it can hopefully stop the illness from developing.

If you don’t treat heat exhaustion it can lead to heatstroke

Officially, sunstroke is defined as a core body temperature of greater than one hundred and five degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the body can become unable to cool itself. Symptoms of sunstroke include seizures, lowered cognitive function, being disoriented, vomiting, and lack of consciousness.

Treating heat exhaustion is largely dependent on the specific symptoms that you develop. In many instances, you can treat yourself simply by moving to a shaded area, applying a bandana soaked in cool water over your forehead and skin, and drinking plenty of cool water. These things will help return your body to a cool state. If you have access to a stream or lake, immerse your entire body into the water to accelerate the cooling. Heatstroke is often associated with dehydration so drinking a rehydration solution can also do much to help.

Always take appropriate steps to prevent sunstroke such as wearing a hat and avoiding the hottest part of the day

Your neck, back, armpits, and groin have the most blood vessels in your body, so you’ll want to focus applying cool water to those areas so that you can cool down faster.


Hypothermia is defined as the core temperature in the body dropping to below ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. The initial symptoms of hypothermia include excessive shivering, which is an attempt by your body to decrease the temperature, clumsiness, slow speech, excessive drowsiness, accelerated heart rate, and shallow breathing. The scary thing about hypothermia is that it can set in quickly, so you’ll need to act quickly to turn it around too.

If you start to become cold and shiver excessively, sitting next to a fire or performing exercises such as jumping jacks are two of the most important things you can do to warm yourself up. But even if the hypothermia sets in any way, hope is not lost.

Having hypothermia is like the opposite of sunstroke – your body gets too cold to maintain it’s vital temperature

The first thing to do once hypothermia sets in is to find shelter very quickly. The purpose of shelter is to form a barrier between the victim (either you or someone else) and the outside elements. If you don’t have a tarp or a space blanket with you to do this, then a large tree or an overhanging rock will suffice.

The next thing you must do is to remove any wet clothes that are on you. Rain is one of the most common ways for hypothermia to set in, but sweating on a cold day can also be a cause behind it. Any clothes that become wet as a result will only pull heat out of the body, which makes the hypothermia worse. Remove the wet clothes and replace them with the dry ones if you have them.

The next step is to warm up the body. If you have sleeping bags, blankets, or ponchos, wrap the victim or yourself up in them. Then, you’ll need to bring in more warmth into the shelter to warm the body externally. There are three viable ways to accomplish this: have someone lie down next to the victim to share body heat, fill up a bladder with warm water and then place it between the person and their sleeping bag or blanket, or light a fire and lie down next to it.

Now, you’ll need to warm the body internally. The best way to warm the body internally, hands down, is to slowly but steadily drink warm liquids. If you get a fire going, you can heat some water over it and then have the victim drink it. With the body now being warmed from the outside and the inside, the hypothermia can be reversed.


Last but not least, we’ll talk about how you can treat dehydration. Dehydration is defined as the excessive loss of moisture or water from the body, to the point that metabolic processes are disturbed which is the result of a significant restriction on the intake of water. You should never decide to drink water purely on thirst. Many people can become accustomed to not drinking while thirsty but then suffer from dehydration later.

When you lose over five percent of your body water, you become anorexic and can sustain heavy migraine headaches. When you have lost ten percent of your body water, you will feel excessively dizzy and light headed, and will likely need help getting rehydrated. Losing over fifteen percent of your body water is dangerous and could claim your life.

Serious dehydration can require medical intervention

Obviously, the best prevention to stop dehydration from occurring in the first place is to drink plenty of water. Just taking a small sip every ten to fifteen minutes gives your body the fluids it needs to operate normally.

Drinking water little and often is the best way to stay hydrated

If you do become dehydrated, immediately stop what you are doing so you don’t exert the body any further. You’ll then need to focus entirely on replenishing your body with water. Fortunately, rehydrating yourself is practically painless. Wrap a bandana soaked in cool water around your head and drink as much water as you can, but rather than drinking an entire bottle all at once, instead drink the water slowly yet steadily. The reason why is because you can have more difficulty drinking while dehydrated, but drinking the water slowly can be easier to gulp. Don’t drink directly from a pool or stream of water until you’ve purified or filtered it.

Water – the best taste in the world when you are thirsty

When you are found and get to a hospital, the doctors can then treat any remaining symptoms.

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