When you're not used to hot weather, the heat can take you by surprise. Heatstroke (also known as sunstroke when developed from being in the sun) can be a potentially life-threatening condition. Here's how to avoid heat exhausion, how to spot the signs, and what you should do.
See also: 10 ways to sleep well in the heat
See also: Wake up feeling tired? 8 things that could be to blame
Signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke
The normal temperature for the body is 37 degrees C or 98.6 degrees F. If your body's core (internal) temperature increases to 40 degrees C or 104 degrees F, serious problems can occur.
Heat exhaustion can come on quickly over a few minutes, or gradually over several hours or days. Someone with heat exhaustion will feel very hot, and the amount of water and salt in their body will drop below normal levels.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:
• tiredness and weakness
• feeling dizzy or faint
• a drop in blood pressure
• a headache
• muscle cramps
• feeling and being sick
• profuse sweating
• severe thirst
• quickened pulse
• urinating less often and having much darker urine than normal
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke – a more serious condition which can cause confusion, irritability, disorientation, seizures, and a loss of consciousness.
Who's most at risk?
People of all ages can develop heatstroke during a heatwave or while doing intense exercise in hot weather. However, the elderly and babies and young children are most at risk. You should take extra care if you have a long-term health condition, such as diabetes or a heart or lung condition, and have recently been poorly and are dehydrated.
Certain prescription drugs can increase your risk of developing heat exhaustion or heatstroke, including diuretics, antihistamines, beta-blockers, antipsychotics, as can recreational drugs, such as amphetamines and ecstasy.
What you can do
Heat exhaustion can make you feel very poorly, but if you take action early enough it isn't usually serious. If you're worried that you or someone else is suffering from heat exhaustion, it's important to reduce the temperature of the body as soon as possible.
Get them to lie down somewhere cool, such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade, and take off as much of their clothing as possible. Use a cool damp cloth on their skin to help bring their temperature down. Fan them while their skin is moist, and offer them a cool drink (but not freezing) and encourage them to sip slowly.
Stay with the person until they recover. It takes most people around 30 minutes to start feeling better.
If they don't improve within about 30 minutes, or they become unconscious at any point, and/or have seizures, call 999. If they are unconscious, you should take the same steps as described above and put the person in the recovery position until help comes.