Is the sunshine making you ill? 6 signs you have heatstroke – and what you can do about it

As we all head outside to enjoy the warm weather, make sure the heatwave doesn’t leave you under the weather.

Most of us have been enjoying some gloriously warm weather but it’s important to remember there’s a more serious side to the sunshine.

If you’re feeling under the weather as the heat rises – make sure you know what to do.

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What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is far more common than heatstroke and isn’t as serious - but it can still make you feel pretty lousy, and can develop into heatstroke if you don’t do anything about it, so it’s important to take action at this stage.

“Heat exhaustion is when a person experiences fatigue as a result of low blood pressure and blood volume, from being exposed to prolonged periods of heat,” says Dr David Smart MBChB, founder, director and lead GP of The Smart Clinics.

“Symptoms include headache, nausea, faintness, very hot skin, extreme weakness, heavy sweating, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and urinating less.

“To prevent heat exhaustion, take simple precautions; stay out of direct sunlight at the hottest times of the day, remain well-hydrated at all times, take water with you on car or train journeys, avoid extreme physical exhaustion, keep yourself cool with water sprays or showers and never leave anyone in a parked car.”


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Don’t ignore it

Boots UK pharmacist Angela Chalmers adds: “If you have heat exhaustion, then moving to a cool place, drinking water to rehydrate and removing layers of clothes to cool the body down should help within 30 minutes. However, if you’re in a vulnerable group (under two, over 70, diabetic, have kidney, liver or circulation problems) or have developed heatstroke, call 999, as this is a medical emergency.”

[Read more: Do you sweat too much? 6 signs you might be suffering from hyperhidrosis]

What is heatstroke?

“Heatstroke is when the body's temperature becomes dangerously high as a result of gaining more heat than it can cool down,” says Dr Smart.

“It’s caused by dehydration. If you have been hot for a long period of time and you start you start to feel unwell, move to a cooler place and drink water, small amounts at first, and pay attention to children and the elderly, as they are particularly susceptible.”

What to do if you have heatstroke

If you think you – or someone you know – is developing heatstroke, seek immediate medical help, advises Dr Smart.

[Read more: Healthy holidays: How not to get ill on your summer vacation]

“Left untreated, heatstroke can lead to serious medical complications, such as seizures and organ failure. People can die, particularly if they’re vulnerable.”

If you suspect someone has heatstroke, call 999 straight away, adds Preston. “Whilst waiting for the ambulance, you should attempt to cool the person by moving them to a cool area, opening any windows and giving them water to drink.”

What about sunstroke?

Though they sound similar, heatstroke and sunstroke are very different.

“Sunstroke is a type of heatstroke caused by sitting in the sun for prolonged periods and getting burned,” says Chalmers.

“You will also suffer from dehydration, however, heatstroke is caused by high temperatures that cause dehydration, therefore you can get heatstroke by staying inside or in the shade.”

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