Symptoms of Heat Stroke and what you should do about it

Boy, was it hot yesterday? Apparently it was the hottest July day on record and I’m just glad I don’t have to commute to London anymore. I had intended to write this yesterday, but honestly, it was just too hot to be sitting at a laptop all day, so I gave up went for a beer instead!  In the UK, we are never prepared for any extremes of weather. In the winter we don’t have enough snow ploughs and in the summer we never have enough air conditioning; perhaps that’s why the weather is always the topic of conversation in Britain. Apparently, though, we are in for a record breaking summer this year, so be prepared for more heatwaves with these tips on how to recognise heatstroke and what to do about it.

What is heat stroke?
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are caused when you get too hot, typically during a heat wave or if you holiday in a hot country. Heatstroke, which is when the body can no longer keep itself cool, is the more serious of the two and it is classed as a medical emergency because it can put a strain on the brain, heart, liver and lungs.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?
The symptoms of heat stroke can begin with a feeling of dizziness and simply feeling unwell.  When heat stroke takes hold, the core body temperature will rise to above 104 degrees Fahrenheit and this is when it starts to have an effect on the nervous system. Typical symptoms of heat stroke are; mental confusion, severe headache, nausea and vomiting, racing heart and flushed skin.

The symptoms can develop very quickly
When you are out in the sun in a heat wave and you don’t drink enough water, the symptoms of heatstroke can develop surprisingly quickly. Most people do usually show signs of the milder symptoms first, but heatstroke can come on with no warning at all.

How can you help a person with heat stroke?
If you do suspect that a person is suffering from heatstroke, and they show no signs of recovery within half an hour, or they fall unconscious, then you should telephone for medical assistance straight away, because it is a dangerous and potentially life threatening condition.

While you are waiting for assistance, you should do what you can to cool the person down. Move them into the shade, loosen their clothing and, if you can, spray them with some cool water, or get them to a cool shower. If you have any ice to hand, then an ice pack on their groin, armpits and the back of the neck will help to cool their body temperature. Try to get them to drink something as well, like cold water, or fruit juice, because they will probably be dehydrated.

 If they do fall unconscious, place them in the recovery position and make sure that their airway is clear of any obstruction.

How to avoid getting heatstroke
If we do get another heat wave like yesterday, avoid staying out in the sun between 11am and 3pm, which will be the hottest times of the day. Stay as cool as you can, avoid physical exertion and drink plenty of fluids, but not alcohol and caffeinated drinks, because they will dehydrate you even further. In other words, don’t be a mad dog, or an Englishman, and do stay out of the midday sun!

What will the rest of the summer 2015 weather be like?
Well, the Met Office is hedging their bets over this one, but the consensus of opinion does seem to be that we are in for a scorcher of a summer this year and we could well be in for more days like yesterday, so take care, stay cool and keep yourself well hydrated.

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