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What are the signs of heat stroke – and how do you best avoid it?

Britain is bracing for sweltering heat as the first-ever red warning for extreme heat is implemented today with temperatures expected to hit 107F (41C) on what is likely to be the hottest ever day in the UK. 

Health chiefs fear the NHS will be overwhelmed by a number of heat-related casualties if the mercury does indeed rise to levels only usually seen in Death Valley in California, the world’s hottest place. 

The Met Office warning says the weather could cause health problems across the population, not just among people vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to potentially serious illness or danger to life. 

With extreme heat on the way, health officials have warned Britons to look out for signs of heatstroke, heat rash (prickly heat) and heat exhaustion.

Here, the MailOnline looks at the symptoms, how to cool someone down and what to do in an emergency:

What is heatstroke and what are the symptoms?

Heatstroke is where the body is no longer able to cool itself and a person’s body temperature becomes dangerously high due to a long amount of time exposed to direct sunlight.

Common symptoms include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Not sweating – a sign of being dehydrated  
  • Loss of consciousness, incoherence
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Very high body temperature
  • Dizziness or a headache
  • Fast, strong pulse 

With extreme heat on the way, health officials have warned Britons to look out for signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion

When heatstroke occurs, the body’s temperature can rise to 106°F (41C) or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person does not receive emergency treatment.

If you or another person are suffering from heatstroke and symptoms include the below, then call 111: 

  • Feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water 
  • Not sweating even while feeling too hot 
  • A high temperature of 40C or above feeling confused 

However, if the symptoms are more severe and include fast breathing or shortness of breath, a fit (seizure), loss of consciousness, not responsive – call 999 immediately and place the person in the recovery position. Wait until the emergency services arrive. 

When heatstroke occurs, the body's temperature can rise to 106°F (41C) or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person does not receive emergency treatment

When heatstroke occurs, the body’s temperature can rise to 106°F (41C) or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person does not receive emergency treatment

To help prevent heatstroke, the NHS advises methods that will prevent dehydration and help your body keep itself cool:

  • 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

The NHS also advises to keep an eye on children, the elderly and people with long-term health conditions (like diabetes or heart problems) because they’re more at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heat rash (prickly heat): Why does it happen and how can I treat it?

In extreme heat, the body ramps up production of sweat. The sensation of the cool moisture on the skin is momentarily cooling and, more importantly, as each drop of sweat evaporates, it takes with it a bit of heat.

This is why humidity can raise the risks of overheating. Sweat evaporation slows down when the air is already saturated with humidity and unable to take any more moisture.

The Met Office had already this week issued an 'amber' heat warning - for only the third time ever - from Sunday to Tuesday for most of England and Wales. But today this was extended to all of England and Wales and southern Scotland - and upgraded to an unprecedented 'red' for parts of central and southern England, including London, on Monday and Tuesday

The Met Office had already this week issued an ‘amber’ heat warning – for only the third time ever – from Sunday to Tuesday for most of England and Wales. But today this was extended to all of England and Wales and southern Scotland – and upgraded to an unprecedented ‘red’ for parts of central and southern England, including London, on Monday and Tuesday

If our sweat glands get clogged up, the warm moisture cannot reach the skin. As a result, the skin gets inflamed, and a heat rash of reddened skin and tiny blisters may appeared, accompanied by a prickly sensation.

Heat rash fades quickly once the body or even just its surface is cooled down. The only more serious risk it poses is that the irritated area can get infected if the skin is broken.

It happens most commonly when people wear tight clothing that traps heat against the surface of the skin and blocks pores, so be sure to wear light breathable materials on scorching summer days.

The main thing to do is keep your skin cool so you do not sweat and irritate the rash. Britons should also:

  • Keep your skin cool wear loose cotton clothing 
  • Use lightweight bedding 
  • Take cool baths or showers 
  • Drink plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration 

To calm the itching or prickly feeling apply something cold, such as a damp cloth or ice pack (wrapped in a tea towel) for up to 20 minutes tap or pat the rash instead of scratching it do not use perfumed shower gels or cream 

If our sweat glands get clogged up, the warm moisture cannot reach the skin. As a result, the skin gets inflamed, and a heat rash of reddened skin and tiny blisters may appeared, accompanied by a prickly sensation (file image)

If our sweat glands get clogged up, the warm moisture cannot reach the skin. As a result, the skin gets inflamed, and a heat rash of reddened skin and tiny blisters may appeared, accompanied by a prickly sensation (file image)

You should also see you local pharmacist for advice if the rash persists or contact 111 if symptoms get worse.

Heat exhaustion: What is it? 

According to the NHS, heat exhaustion is not usually serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If it turns into heatstroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency.

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 high temperature of 38C or above
  • Being very thirsty
The Met Office is warning temperatures could reach 40C in some parts of the UK, with large parts of England set to see their hottest ever day on Tuesday

The Met Office is warning temperatures could reach 40C in some parts of the UK, with large parts of England set to see their hottest ever day on Tuesday

Health advice says the symptoms of heat exhaustion 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 with these four steps:

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

The affected person should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.

It is important you keep hydrated and avoid direct sunlight at peak times and always follow official guidance to make sure you stay safe in the extreme heat that is expected to break records this week.

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