Signs of Sunstroke and How to Treat It

Heat Exhaustion – commonly known in the UK as Sunstroke (as it happens more in hot weather!) is caused by dehydration. It can leave the casualty feeling very weak and unwell, they may be sweaty or clammy, and feel like they want to lie down.  Crucially they won’t have a particularly high temperature and will still be conscious.

To Treat Heat Exhaustion:

  1. Lie the casualty down in a cool area in the shade
  2. If you have some – give them electrolytic fluids to drink.  In the absence of a proper electrolyte solution, you can improvise with drinks such as diluting juice, or fresh orange and lemonade, and eating salty crisps or peanuts to replace the lost salt.  Dioralyte or other similar powders are also very effective.

If dehydration is not dealt with quickly, it can lead to Heatstroke.  This is life threatening and needs immediate medical attention.

Signs of Heat Stroke

The casualty will be:

  1. confused and rapidly losing consciousness
  2. feel extremely hot and dry to the touch
  3. breathing will be fast and shallow (panting)
  4. they may vomit
  5. their temperature will be over 40 deg Celsius

In this case the patient needs what is called  ‘aggressive’ cooling to lower their core body temperature.  This may involve wrapping them in wet towels or blankets, and continually dousing them in cold water.  An ambulance must be called immediately as their life is in danger due to the cells of their body breaking down and the subsequent loss of function of their internal organs.  

As ever with first aid, prevention is better than cure, so make sure you take adequate fluids with you if you are out and about, especially having fun in the sun!

Remember too that children may not realise that they are thirsty and need a drink, especially if they are having fun!  So keep an eye on them, and encourage them to drink by having a drink together.

A child’s face tells you a lot – if they look hot, sweaty and flushed, they probably need a drink.  Regular sips are much better than gulping a big drink all at once, and teach them to check the colour of their pee so they can look after themselves. Take a look at the chart below from the NHS as a guide.

Useful Links

For more information please check out this NHS resource or if in any doubt call 111 for advice.

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