Dealing with extremely hot weather: Avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke

It wouldn't be unfair to suggest that most of us Brits are unused to dealing with extremely hot weather: it's not something that we have to deal with very often in the UK.

However, as we are usually extremely keen to head to warmer, sunnier climes on holiday, it's important to know how to stay healthy in very hot weather.

According to advise given by NHS Choices, it is usually the very young, older people and those with breathing or heart problems can be the most vulnerable in extreme heat and the main risks are, dehydration, overheating, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Some people with pre-existing medical conditions can be particularly at risk in very high temperatures, for instance; those with chronic heart or breathing problems, people with pre-existing medical conditions which affect the body's ability to cool down, such as diabetes or people on medication which can affect sweating or temperature control.

Pre-existing medical conditions and extreme heat: Get advice before you travel

If you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition or take prescribed medication it could be wise to visit your doctor before travelling to hot country, they will able to help prepare properly for your trip and give you some tips on keeping cool whilst you are away.

Tips for coping in hot weather

The following tips for keeping cool and comfortable in hot weather are taken from the NHS choices website and can help you reduce the risk from extremely hot weather on holiday.

  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. If it's safe, open them for ventilation when it is cooler.
  • Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun and don't go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) if you're vulnerable to the effects of heat.
  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and fruit juice. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol.
  • If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat.
  • Don't leave anyone in a parked car.
  • Avoid extreme physical exertion.
  • Sprinkle water over your skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.

The difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Heat exhaustion is when the temperature inside the body rises above the normal 37°C, but remains lower than 40°C. This causes levels of water and salt in the body to fall and can make you feel sick, faint or sweat heavily. According to NHS Choices, once taken to a cool place and given water, a person with heat exhaustion should start feeling better within half an hour.

If left untreated a person with heat exhaustion could develop heat stroke which is far more serious. Heat stroke means that the body can longer cool itself and starts to overheat. Heat stroke can, if left untreated, lead to organ failure, brain damage and even death. Heat stroke should be treated as a medical emergency.

For more information about the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke visit NHS Choices >>