The SkillBase First Aid Guide to Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke – would you know what to do?

When we become hot, we sweat – leading to loss of water and salt which can make us very unwell. First Aid training courses may teach you how to deal with most situations but it can still be a bit of a shock when confronted with heat stroke or heat exhaustion.


Causes of Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion can be caused by humid conditions (such as being abroad or during a heatwave), having a fever, or from taking recreational drugs such as ecstasy (from excessive dancing and dehydration).

Prolonged heat can lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion and, if left untreated, can quickly develop to heatstroke.  Groups particularly susceptible to the effects of heat include the elderly, the very young and people with chronic or long-term medical conditions (including diabetes, obesity and alcoholism).



Possible Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

  • Initially hot, flushed skin, but may turn cold and paler as the condition becomes worse.
  • Initially sweating, although this may stop as the condition becomes worse.

A casualty that has become so hot that they have stopped sweating is suffering heatstroke (or sunstroke), and requires urgent medical assistance.

  • Headache and confusion, feeling dizzy or fainting
  • Loss of appetite, feeling or being sick
  • Cramps in the limbs and abdomen


Here’s What To Do:

  • Look for and treat any sunburn
  • Place the casualty in the shade or a cool place
  • Sponge the casualty’s skin with tepid water
  • Fan the casualty
  • Give the casualty plenty to drink. Sports drinks are best, but coconut water, full-fat milk and tea are also good alternatives.
  • If there is no improvement call NHS 111 for advice, or 999 for an ambulance if you are concerned.


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