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Heat Exhaustion and Heat (Sun) Stroke AdviceHeat Exhaustion and Heat (Sun) Stroke Advice 

With the recent warm weather we have been having, with hopefully more to come, perhaps it is time to look at the problems that can occur when out in the heat, whether for pleasure or work-based activities.


There is a high risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke during hot weather.

Heat exhaustion is as a result of your body overheating, usually caused by exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity and in turn leads to dehydration caused by excess sweating.

Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.

Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable.

To help prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke:

  • 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

This will also prevent dehydration and help your body keep itself cool.

Heat exhaustion, if recognised early enough, is not serious and usually gets better when you cool down.

The signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • a headache
  • 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
  • a temperature of 38°C or above
  • intense thirst

The symptoms are often the same in adults and children, although children may become floppy and sleepy.

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion they need to be cooled down

Follow these 4 steps:

  1. Move them to a cool place.
  2. Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
  3. Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK.
  4. Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good too.

Stay with them until they are better.

They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes

Call 999 if the 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 40°C or above
  • has rapid or shortness of breath
  • is confused
  • has a fit (seizure)
  • loses consciousness
  • is unresponsive

These can be signs of heat stroke.

Heat Stroke is caused when the body overheats and is unable to cool itself down by sweating due to dehydration and is most common in the summer months.

This most serious form of heat injury can occur if your body temperature rises to 40 °C or higher.

Heat stroke is potentially life-threatening and needs to be treated by medical professionals.

The signs of heat stroke include:

  • a temperature of 40°C or above
  • a throbbing headache
  • feeling and being sick
  • dizziness
  • muscle cramps
  • intense thirst
  • flushed, hot, dry skin with no sweating
  • darker urine than normal
  • rapid heartbeat
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness

These can develop quickly, within minutes, or over several hours or days.

Follow these steps:

  1. Move them to a cool, shaded place
  2. Cool the casualty rapidly, using whatever means you can:
  • Remove outer clothing and wrap the casualty in a cold, wet sheet. Keep it wet and cold until the casualty’s temperature falls to normal levels, then replace with a dry sheet.
  • Continually sponging with tepid water and fanning the casualty to help it evaporate
  • Placing in a cool shower if they are conscious enough to do so
  • Spraying with cool water from a garden hose

If someone is showing signs of heat stroke they need emergency medical attention by dialling 999 / 112.

Nigel Braybrooke, Health and Safety Consultant