Heat exhaustion is not serious however; if it turns into heatstroke it needs to be treated as an emergency.
Signs of heat exhaustion
- 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
- temperature of 38C or above
- intense thirst
In addition to the symptoms above children may become floppy and sleepy.
How to treat heat exhaustion
If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion they need to be cooled down:
- Get the person to lie down in a cool place.
- Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
- Get them to drink plenty of water or fluids (not alcohol)
- Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good too.
Stay with them until they are better.
They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.
You should call 999 if the person:
- does not respond to the above treatment within 30 minutes
- has severe symptoms such as loss of consciousness, confusion or seizures
- has a temperature that's risen to 40C or above; or
- is struggling to breathe or has shortness of breath
These can be signs of heat stroke.
While you wait for help, keep giving first aid and put them in the recovery position if they lose consciousness.
Preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke
There is a high risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke during hot weather or exercise.
To help prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke:
- drink plenty of cold drinks and avoid excess alcohol
- take cool baths or showers
- wear light-coloured, loose clothing
- avoid the sun when it is at its hottest, usually around midday; and
- avoid extreme exercise
Keep an eye on the young, the elderly and people with long-term health conditions (like diabetes or heart problems) because they are more at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.