Summer safety – heat waves, dehydration and sunburn

With the current high temperatures we’ve been experiencing looking to continue, a reminder of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sunburn and the first aid needed should they occur.

Heat Exhaustion

Occurs when the electrolytes in the body are out of balance but core body temperature is still close to the normal range. The casualty may complain of a headache, ‘feeling rubbish’ or finding it hard to concentrate. A rest in a cool, well ventilated/shady environment with e.g. a packet of salty crisps and a drink of squash or an isotonic sports drink usually sorts them out quickly. If the casualty does not improve within 30 minutes seek medical advice. Water alone will not aid hydration as salts from having been sweating and sugars lost from using energy also need to be replaced.

Heat Stroke

Occurs when the body is very dehydrated and is no-longer able to sweat. Core body temperature will rise and this is a life-threatening emergency. It can cause a loss of consciousness or seizures (a fit). Remove excess clothing (leave decent), provide shade if in the sun, cover with a sheet or shirt that is soaked in water at roughly air temperature and keep re-wetting if necessary (avoid freezing cold water); monitor vital signs and call 999/112 for an ambulance. If they loose consciousness roll them onto their side to protect their airway.


Large areas of sunburn mean that the skin cannot sweat effectively and the risk of heat injuries above is increased. Encourage friends and family to regularly apply sun cream, avoid the sun during peak times, cover up including a hat and stay hydrated. If sunburn does occur a long cool shower will help to take some of the heat out; cover up from the sun; re-hydrate and check with a local pharmacist what to put on the sunburn. Usually they recommend Aqueous Cream as this is non-perfumed and won’t irritate damaged skin like many ‘after-sun’ products.

Thank you to Underwood Training Ltd for this information. Click here to visit their website.