With summer now in full swing, most of us will be heading outdoors to make the most of the warm weather while it lasts.
But since the sunny weather typically doesn't hang around long here in the UK, it is easy to get carried away and spend too much time in the sun without taking proper precautions - which could put you at risk of heatstroke or heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke
Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke and is the body’s response to overheating, often caused by a loss of water and salt.
While it’s not a serious condition, it can lead to headaches, dizziness and nausea, but symptoms will generally improve when your body cools down.
The NHS advise checking for the following signs to identify heat exhaustion:
- Dizziness and confusion
- Loss of appetite and feeling sick
- Excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
- Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
- Fast breathing or pulse
- Temperature of 38C or above
- Intense thirst
Symptoms are often the same in both adults and children, although children are more prone to becoming floppy and sleepy.
How to treat heat exhaustion
If a person is showing these symptoms, it is an indicator that they need to be cooled down.
These four steps should be followed to cool someone down:
- Move them to a cool place
- Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly
- Get them to drink plenty of water – or sports or rehydration drinks
- Cool their skin by spraying or sponging them with cold water and fan them – cold packs around the armpits or neck are also effective
- Stay with them until they feel better
Following these steps should see them start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.
How to treat heatstroke
If not treated, heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke – the most serious heat-related condition which can see body temperatures rise to 40C or higher.
The NHS urge calling 999 if a person:
- Is no better after 30 minutes
- Feels hot and dry
- Is not sweating even though they are too hot
- Has a temperature that’s risen to 40C or above
- Has rapid or shortness of breath
- Is confused
- Has a fit (seizure)
- Loses consciousness
- Is unresponsive
All of these symptoms can be signs of heatstroke and need to be treated immediately.
It is advisable to give a person aid and put them into the recovery position if they lose consciousness, while you wait for help.
How to prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke
During the summer months, the risk of suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke is much higher, particularly during hot weather or exercise.
To help prevent these conditions, it is recommended taking the following precautions to minimise the risk:
- Drink plenty of cold drinks, especially when exercising
- Take cool baths or showers
- Wear light-coloured, loose clothing
- Sprinkle water over skin or clothes
- Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
- Avoid excess alcohol
- Avoid extreme exercise
Following these precautions will also help prevent the body from dehydrating and will keep it cool.