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Protect Yourself from Heat Stroke

08/01/2022

One colleague listening to another to depict what mental health first aid may look like
As extreme weather seems to be becoming a regular part of the British summer, we thought it would be good to run through what to do if someone gets exposed to too much hot weather.

 

Understanding Symptoms and Prevention Strategies

As extreme weather seems to be becoming a regular part of the British summer, we thought it would be good to run through what to do if someone gets exposed to too much hot weather.

Understanding the dangers of heat stroke is crucial for safeguarding the well-being of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.  Extreme heat can be risky to a lot of people so learning how to stay safe and recover from heat related illness is essential.  In the UK, a heat wave is a period of 3 or more days where the temperature is higher than the set threshold – however this does vary by location.  In London, this is currently 28°C.

Heat stroke can potentially be a life-threatening condition, and can strike anyone regardless of age or occupation. The impacts can be severe, leading to organ damage and even death if not promptly recognized and treated. At STS First Aid we believe that preparedness is the key to preventing such medical emergencies. Our first aid courses go beyond the basics, providing participants with the expertise needed to identify the signs and symptoms of heat stroke, administer initial aid, and effectively manage the situation until professional help arrives.

 

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a serious condition that occurs when the body overheats and is unable to regulate its temperature. It is a medical emergency that can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Heat stroke typically occurs when the body’s core temperature rises when someone is exposed to high temperatures for an extended period of time.

 

Understanding the symptoms of heat stroke

Heat exhaustion is not usually serious if you can get cooled down within 30 minutes. If it turns into heatstroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency and medical services should be contacted as soon as possible. Recognising the symptoms of heat stroke is crucial for early intervention and prevention of complications, symptoms may include:

  • Hot, red, and dry skin: Skin may feel hot to the touch and appear flushed or reddened. Sweating may stop or be minimal in some cases.

  •  Headache and dizziness:  Heat stroke can cause throbbing headaches and a feeling of light-headedness or dizziness.

  • Nausea and vomiting: The body’s response to heat stress can lead to nausea and vomiting.

  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing: Heat stroke can cause an increased heart rate and rapid, shallow breathing.

  • Confusion and altered mental state: As the body’s temperature rises, heat stroke can cause confusion, disorientation, and even loss of consciousness.

  • It is important to note that heat stroke can affect anyone, but certain individuals may be at higher risk due to underlying health conditions, medications, age, or lifestyle factors.

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

If you or someone you know experiences any of these signs, it is important to take immediate action. Move to a cool, shaded area, drink plenty of fluids, and seek medical attention.

 

Risk factors for heat stroke

  • There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of heat stroke, including:

  •  Exposure to extreme heat and humidity for extended periods of time.

  • Engaging in intense exercise or laborious work in hot weather without proper hydration and rest.

  • Infants, young children, and older adults are more susceptible to heat stroke as they are less able to regulate their own body temperature.

  • People with chronic illnesses may be at higher risk of heat stroke.

  • Some medications can impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

 

Tips for preventing heat stroke

Preventing heat stroke means taking steps to minimise heat exposure and stay properly hydrated.  Here are some tips to help you stay safe in hot weather:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, throughout the day to stay hydrated.  Try to avoid drinking too much tea, coffee and drinks with a lot of caffeine as these can contribute to dehydration.

  • Limit how much time you spend in direct sunlight and try to spend time in the shade whenever possible. Stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day.

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing in light colours that allow air circulation and help sweat evaporate.

  • Use sunscreen with a high SPF to help protect your skin.

  • Take regular breaks if you are carrying out physical activity or working outdoors.

  • Know your limits and listen to your body.

  • Keep an eye on older adults, young children, and individuals with chronic illnesses, as they may be more susceptible to heat stroke.

 

What to do for someone who is pregnant during hot weather

The advice for dealing with hot weather is the same for someone who is pregnant, but it’s important to take extra care during times of extreme heat or a heatwave. The risk of sunburn is great during pregnancy so it’s important to wear suntan lotion and avoid the sun when possible. Pregnant women are more prone to swelling in their hands and feet due to fluid retention, which gets worse in hot weather. Pregnant women should make sure they rest in the shade, and if necessary to cool their hands and feet in cool water. The increased demand on the circulatory system, also means it’s even more important to maintain good levels of hydration.

 

Heat stroke first aid and emergency measures

  • If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, take immediate action to cool them down:

  •  Immediately move the person to a shaded or air-conditioned location away from direct sunlight.

  • Remove excess and unnecessary clothing.

  • Apply cool water to the person’s skin using wet towels or by gently spraying with cool water and fan them.

  • Offer cool water or a sports drink if the person is conscious and able to swallow.

  •  If they do not feel better after 30 minutes, call 999.

 

Remember, prevention is key in avoiding heat stroke. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay informed. Protect yourself and those around you from the dangers of heat stroke.  If you want more information on this or many other first aid situations look no further than an STS first aid course for a wide range of knowledge so you can help people in a variety of different situations.

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