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Stay safe in the heat and know the symptoms of trouble


In a follow-up to our last blog post, ‘BBQ and Food Safety’, we continue the Summer Safety theme with some general tips and tricks to stay cool and safe this summer.

Heat StrokeWe’ve also included some basic first-aid when dealing with Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion as well as how to recognise the symptoms.

Follow this simple guide and you’ll be best prepared to act quickly and confidently.

The Basics

Without trying to teach grannies old tricks, let’s start with the basics just to refresh the grey matter.

  • Drink plenty of water and natural juices, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they constrict the blood vessels near the skin and reduce the amount of heat the body can release. Even though they may appear to satisfy thirst, they actually cause further body dehydration.
  • Eat small meals more often and avoid foods that are high in protein because they increase metabolic heat.
  • Avoid the heat as much as possible and spend time in a cool space – the best place if you don’t have air conditioning is the lowest floor of a building.
  • Remember, electric fans do not generate cool air they merely blow hot air around the room so you’re not solving anything.
  • Wear the appropriate attire – loose-fitting, lightly coloured clothes will be best as they reflect heat and sunlight and help maintain normal body temperature.
  • Protect your face and head by wearing a cap, hat or head scarf – select cosmetic products, contact lenses and sunglasses that offer UV protection.
  • Take it easy – if you engage in strenuous activities then the best times are early morning and late evening.
  • Consider those around you and keep an eye out for children and protect them from the sun.
  • Never leave children in a closed vehicle, even for a few minutes! Temperatures can reach upwards of 43°C in just 10 minutes and 52°C within 30 minutes on a hot, sunny day.
  • Check on the elderly regularly.
  • Use a sunscreen lotion with a high sun protection factor (SPF) rating – apply at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 hours thereafter, more if you are sweating or swimming.
  • Learn the symptoms of heat disorders and know how to give first aid – see below for more on this.
  • Avoid tanning beds!

Water Safety

  • Keep a constant watch when children are near water and scan the water every 20 seconds – it only takes a few seconds for a child to drown, if they are playing near or in water, be vigilant.
  • Make sure protection measures are in place to prevent access to the water when unsupervised.
  • Empty paddling pools – infants can drown in just a few inches of water.
  • Avoid areas with a strong sea or river current – you may be a good swimmer in the pool or on a sunny beach in Majorca, but a strong sea current is a whole different kettle of fish!
  • Swim in areas, where possible, where an active life-guard is on duty.

Heat exhaustion – The Symptoms

Here are the symptoms of someone suffering from heat exhaustion – they can develop rapidly so act fast;

  • The skin feels hot and ‘flushed’
  • Excessive or heavy sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat and confusion
  • Urinating less and much darker urine than usual

How to Treat Heat exhaustion

  • Take them to rest in a cool place out of the sun – ideally this should be an air-conditioned room but the shade will do if that’s all that is available.
  • Give them fluids and only stop when their symptoms have greatly improved. Use water or a rehydration drink, never alcohol or caffeine.
  • Drench them in cold water – a bottle will do if that’s all you have but ideally a cool shower or bath would be best. Apply a cool, wet flannel or facecloth to their skin and loosen their clothing.
  • If they don’t improve within 30 minutes, call for an ambulance.

There are certain groups of people who should be taken the hospital either way as they may suffer complications, these are;

  • Children under two years old
  • Very elderly people
  • People with kidney, heart or circulation problems
  • People with diabetes who use insulin

Heatstroke – Recognising the Symptoms

A high body temperature of 40°C or above is often a major sign of heatstroke – it can be diagnosed at lower temperatures and some people can reach these temperatures during physical exercise without developing heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Signs of Heatstroke include;

  • Heavy sweating that suddenly stops – if the body is unable to produce any more sweat, it’s a major warning sign that it has become over-heated and dehydrated
  • A rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Muscle cramps

The extreme heat that causes heatstroke also affects the nervous system, which can cause other symptoms such as:

  • Mental confusion and a lack of co-ordination
  • Fits or seizures
  • Restlessness or anxiety
  • Problems understanding or speaking to others
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t real (hallucinations)
  • Loss of consciousness

What to do?

Heatstroke is an emergency so call for an ambulance if you think that you or someone you know has heatstroke;

  • Move the person to a cool area as quickly as possible and open the windows.
  • Give them water to drink but don’t give them any medication – aspirin or paracetamol.
  • Use cool, not cold, water to cool their skin or use damp towels to cover their body – it’s better to wait for medical supervision before fully immersing them in water, such as in a bath, as the body’s response could cause them harm.
  • Gently massage their skin to encourage circulation.
  • If the person is unconscious and vomiting, move them into the recovery position by turning them on their side and making sure that their airways are clear.

Follow these simple steps and have the best chance of a safe, trouble-free summer – if you would like more information or advice please do give us a call on 0117 958 2070.

Find out more about our First Aid Courses

Stay safe this summer.