Heatstroke signs to watch out for - and how to treat symptoms in hot weather
It's a serious condition that can affect anyone during extreme heat but, with this advice, you can be prepared and be safe in the sun
Long gone are the days where a British summer meant eating sand-flecked sandwiches on a rainy beach. The UK weather has changed dramatically and we can now expect heatwaves more often than before.
While we can't wait to run to the nearest park for a spot of sun-worshipping, there is the very real danger we could get heatstroke due to the extreme heat.
Heatstroke is a serious condition that is commonly caused by hot weather or exercise. In this state, the body is no longer able to cool itself down and the temperature reaches dangerously high levels. The condition could affect anyone, but babies, young children, people over the age of 75 and those with underlying health conditions could be at greater risk, according to Public Health England.
But fear not. We have investigated the heatstroke symptoms and treatments, as well as how long the condition lasts, so you can feel prepared and survive the heatwave.
What are heatstroke symptoms?
If you sit out in the sunshine for too long, you might experience “heat exhaustion“”. This is where you may start excessively sweating, feel dizzy or nauseous, lose your appetite, experience cramps in your legs, arms or stomach and feel extremely thirsty.
For heat exhaustion, the NHS says your symptoms should clear within 30 minutes of cooling down. Heatstroke, on the other hand, is more dangerous (but, thankfully, less common). If you suspect you or a friend has heatstroke, you may need to call 999.
There is cause for concern when you start to exhibit these more extreme symptoms, as they may be signs of heatstroke:
Becoming unresponsive or losing consciousness
Having a fit or seizure
Feeling hot but not sweating
Having a temperature above 40C
Having rapid or irregular breathing
If you are not feeling better within 30 minutes, this may also be a sign of heatstroke and you will need to seek emergency medical attention. The NHS recommends that you call 999 if you exhibit these symptoms.
If you fear your friend is suffering from heatstroke, give them first aid and put them in the recovery position.
Read more: How to keep cool in a heatwave
How to treat heatstroke and cool down
If you think someone you know may be suffering from heatstroke, you can first try to cool them down. Move them to a cool place, raise their feet slightly, and get them to drink plenty of water (sports drinks should also work).
It may also be worth cooling their skin down by dabbing them with a sponge or spraying them with cold water. It's particularly useful to put such cold patches on the armpits and neck and then fan the moist areas.
It is important not to give them paracetamol or aspirin, as this can put the body under more strain, according to Public Health England.
If the symptoms persist within 30 minutes, you need to seek urgent medical help.
How to get to sleep in hot weather
How to prevent heatstroke in a heatwave
While it is tempting to drink a few “tinnies” (read: M&S Gin and Tonic) in the sunshine, it's important to avoid drinking too much alcohol. Instead, you should drink water to stay hydrated. Fruit juices often have a high sugar content, so the NHS recommends limiting your intake to 150ml.
You can stay cool at home during the heatwave by closing your curtains and windows if it's hotter outside your home than within. Light-coloured curtains are particularly effective at reflecting the sun's light, whereas dark curtains and metallic blinds absorb the heat and can make the room warmer.
When you are out and about, you should wear loose, light-coloured clothing (as well as the obligatory hat and sunnies) to minimise heat retention. It's also important to minimise strenuous activity or, if you really must go on a jog, at least restrict it to the cooler part of the day.
Avoiding the heat altogether is the best way to avoid heatstroke, however, and the NHS recommends staying out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
As well as looking after yourself in this hot climate, it is important to look out for more vulnerable people who are at a higher risk of heatstroke. “The extreme heat means that our bodies, especially our hearts and lungs, have to work harder to maintain a normal temperature,” explains Owen Landeg, Principal Environmental Public Health Scientist at Public Health England.
“This is why our advice focuses on reminding people to keep an eye on those who are most at risk, older people, those with underlying health conditions and very young children. The most important advice is to ensure they stay hydrated, keep cool and keep their homes cool.”
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