Heat wave health advice
Leading first aid charity St John Ambulance
has issued first aid advice to help people cope in the
heat, as the Met Office announces its first health alert
of the summer.
As temperatures rise, the warning is to be prepared, as many
heat-related illnesses can be easy to prevent or
treat if you notice the symptoms soon enough.
John Newman, Head of Emergency Operations at
St John Ambulance, commented:
'Extreme heat can be
dangerous, particularly for the very young and old, but by
being prepared you can spot early warning signs of illness and care
for someone who needs your help.'
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are the most
serious problems that can develop when the sun is out. It’s
essential that people look for signs such as headaches and
dizziness, and remove themselves from the heat as soon as
'When the temperature is this hot, St John
Ambulance first aiders typically treat people for cramp, fainting,
sunburn and dehydration. It's better to prevent these conditions
and save yourself unnecessary pain and discomfort by
avoiding prolonged periods of sun, drinking plenty of
water and limiting alcohol intake.'
Summer first aid advice
Extreme heat can be dangerous, particularly for the very young and old, but by being prepared you can spot early warning signs of illness and care for someone who needs your help.
John Newman, Head of Emergency Operations, St John Ambulance
Prolonged exposure to the sun or lack of fluids can cause your
body to dangerously overheat. If someone is
suffering from heatstroke they may have symptoms
such as a rapid pulse, headache and dizziness. Their skin will be
hot to the touch, red and flushed. As the condition worsens they
will become disorientated and confused. It's important to lower
their body temperature as soon as possible. To treat someone
suffering from heatstroke, with their permission, remove as much of
their clothing as possible and dial 999 for an
ambulance. Move them to a cool place and wrap them
in a cold, wet sheet or a suitable alternative
until their temperature falls. If a sheet isn’t available
sponge them with cold water. Once their
temperature returns to normal replace the sheet with a dry one and
make a note of their pulse and breathing until help arrives.
- Heat exhaustion is caused by the loss of salt
and water from excessive sweating. Common symptoms include
headache, dizziness, cramps, breathing that is fast but weak, and
profuse sweating. Take the person into a cool, shady area and make
them as comfortable as possible. Get them to lie down with legs
raised and give them plenty of water. If you have them available,
use isotonic drinks or a sachet of
oral rehydration powder in water instead.
- Dehydration happens when the fluid lost from
the body – usually through sweat – isn’t replaced. Symptoms are a
dry mouth and eyes, headaches, dark urine, dizziness and confusion.
Avoid it by drinking water regularly, not just when you feel
thirsty. The young and old are at particular risk, so it’s crucial
to rehydrate them promptly – and if you’re playing sports or other
demanding activities, your fluid needs will be much higher. To
treat dehydration, drink plenty of fluids; water is normally
suitable but you may prefer to add
oral rehydration powder to help replace the salts lost from the
- Fainting can be triggered by heat. If you’re
prone to fainting, ensure you eat regularly and don’t stand up for
extended periods during the heatwave. If someone faints, advise
them to lie with their head down, then raise their legs on to your
shoulders to improve blood flow to the brain. Make sure they have
fresh air, and keep bystanders away if you can. Watch their face
for signs of recovery, and as they begin to recover, help them to
sit up gradually.
- Sunburn is one of the most common injuries
presented to St John Ambulance volunteers. It’s best to protect
yourself by wearing sunscreen, protective clothing and staying in
the shade, but if it’s happened already there are some easy ways to
ease the pain. As soon as you notice, cover yourself up and move
out of the sun. Take frequent sips of cold water and cool the burnt
skin with a cold damp cloth, or you may find it more practical to
soak the area in a basin or bath of cool water for around ten
minutes. Calamine or aftersun lotion can make you feel more
comfortable. If your skin is blistered, you should seek medical
advice – otherwise, carry on enjoying yourself out of the sun.
- You’re more likely to get cramp in the heat as
it’s often caused by sweating, dehydration or exercise. The sharp
onset of pain makes it alarming, but by carefully stretching and
gently massaging the affected muscles it can quickly be brought
under control. If it’s in the foot, stand with your weight in the
front of the foot to stretch the muscles. If it’s in the calf,
straighten your knee and flex the foot upwards. If it’s in the
front of the thigh, raise the leg and bend the knee, and if it’s in
the back of the thigh you should straighten the knee. Massage the
affected muscles afterwards.
- If you get a blister from shoes rubbing, don’t
burst it. If it’s broken or likely to be damaged, cover with a dry,
non-adhesive dressing that extends well beyond the edges of the
blister. Do not cover a blister with any creams or lotions.