These are the signs and symptoms of heatstroke - and what to do if you think have it

By Claire Schofield
Thursday, 28th June 2018, 1:05 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd July 2019, 12:27 pm
Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke and is the body’s response to overheating (Photo: Shutterstock)
Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke and is the body’s response to overheating (Photo: Shutterstock)

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

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    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:

    HeadacheDizziness and confusionLoss of appetite and feeling sickExcessive sweating and pale, clammy skinCramps in the arms, legs and stomachFast breathing or pulseTemperature of 38C or aboveIntense 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 placeGet them to lie down and raise their feet slightlyGet them to drink plenty of water – or sports or rehydration drinksCool their skin by spraying or sponging them with cold water and fan them – cold packs around the armpits or neck are also effectiveStay 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 minutesFeels hot and dryIs not sweating even though they are too hotHas a temperature that’s risen to 40C or aboveHas rapid or shortness of breathIs confusedHas a fit (seizure)Loses consciousnessIs 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 exercisingTake cool baths or showersWear light-coloured, loose clothingSprinkle water over skin or clothesAvoid the sun between 11am and 3pmAvoid excess alcoholAvoid extreme exercise

    Following these precautions will also help prevent the body from dehydrating and will keep it cool.

    This article originally appeared on our sister site, Yorkshire Evening Post.