What is heat stroke and what are the symptoms of heat exhaustion in adults, children, babies and pets?

HEAT stroke can be life-threatening and often develops in MINUTES, so it’s important to spot the signs early on.

Here’s how to tell the difference between someone who’s got a bit hot and a person suffering from the serious medical condition of heat stroke or exhaustion.

Heat stroke can be potentially life-threatening, so it’s important to know the signs

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a serious condition which can be life-threatening and normally occurs in hot weather.

It can also happen when a person has been doing strenuous physical exercise.

When someone has heat stroke, their body is no longer able to cool itself – and their temperature becomes dangerously high.

It is slightly different to sunstroke, which is caused by direct exposure to sunlight.

Heat stroke can put a strain on the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.

Heat exhaustion is a less serious but more common condition, which can develop into heat stroke if left untreated.

Heat stroke can put a strain on the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys – eventually leading to death

What are the signs and symptoms of heat stroke?

These are the symptoms of heat exhaustion, according to the NHS:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Loss of appetite, feeling or being sick
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
  • Fast breathing or pulse
  • Temperature of 37C or above
  • Intense thirst
  • Children may also become floppy and sleepy
Heat exhaustion is more common and less serious but can lead to heat stroke

How do you treat heat exhaustion?

If someone you know is showing signs of heat exhaustion, you need to cool them down.

  1. Move them to a cool place
  2. Remove any unnecessary layers of clothing
  3. Get them to lie down and raise their feet
  4. Get them to drink water, sports or rehydration drinks
  5. Cool their skin – sponge them with cool water, fan them and add ice packs to the armpit or neck

Every few minutes, check their breathing and pulse are ok.

Stay with them until they start to cool down, which should take no longer than half an hour.

You should avoid excessive exercise in the hot weather, to make sure you don’t get heat stroke

Should I call 999 if someone gets heat stroke?

Heat stroke is potentially life-threatening, and needs to be treated by medical professionals.

You should call 999 if the person:

  • Is not better after 30 minutes in a cool place
  • Feels hot and dry
  • Has a temperature of 40C or above
  • Has a rapid shortness of breath
  • Is confused
  • Has a fit or seizure
  • Loses conscious
  • Is unresponsive

Keep giving first aid, as detailed above, while you wait for the ambulance.

And put them in the recovery position if they lose consciousness.

Stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm during the mini heatwave and sizzling 30C temperatures

How long does it take to recover from heat stroke?

Recovery time for heat stroke is variable, depending on the severity of the case and the overall health of the patient.

Initial recovery is normally one to two days in hospital, but complete recovery could take between two months and a year.

Dogs can also get heat stroke – so never leave one locked in your car during the summer

Can pets get heat stroke?

Pets, most commonly dogs, can also develop heat stroke – which is why you should never leave them locked in a hot during the summer.

Warning signs in dogs include heavy panting, excessive drooling, drowsiness, collapsing or being sick.

Heat stroke can kill animals so, if you think your pet is affected, move them to a cool shady area, douse them in cool (not cold) water and call a vet immediately.

How do I stop myself getting heat stroke?

As Britain has been enjoying a heatwave this week, there are a few simple tips to stop the heatwave leading to heatstroke.

Drink plenty of water, especially when sitting outside and/or exercising.

You should take cool showers or baths and wear light coloured, loose-fitting clothing.

Brits should avoid excessive daytime drinking and wear light clothing to avoid heat stroke
Getty Images

Brits are also advised to avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and avoid extreme exercise during the hot weather.

If you feel very hot, try sprinkling water over your skin or clothes.

Here are some other top tips for keeping cool, from making an ‘ice fan’ to avoiding big meals and choosing cotton.

Meanwhile, if you were tossing and turning last night, here’s how to cool down and drift off during the hot weather.

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