Beat the heat - coping with heat

Watch out for heat related problems

Be aware of signs of heat-related illness

Why is this important?

Chronic illnesses can get worse in hot weather.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are 2 potentially serious conditions that can occur if you get too hot:

  • heat exhaustion is where you become very hot and start to lose water or salt from your body – common symptoms include weakness, feeling faint, headache, muscle cramps, feeling sick, heavy sweating and intense thirst
  • heatstroke is where the body is no longer able to cool itself and the body’s temperature becomes dangerously high – it is less common, but more serious and untreated symptoms include confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness

What can I do?

You can find out more, such as common signs and symptoms to look out for, on the NHS Heat exhaustion and heatstroke website.

Cool your skin with water, slow down and drink water

Why is this important?

If heat exhaustion isn't spotted and treated early on, there's a risk it could lead to heatstroke. Untreated heatstroke can be fatal.

What can I do?

If you notice that someone has signs of heat related illness, you should:

  • get them to lie down in a cool place – such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade
  • remove any unnecessary clothing to expose as much of their skin as possible
  • cool their skin with cool water, you could use a cool wet sponge or flannel, cool water spray, cold packs around the neck and armpits, or wrap them in a cool, wet sheet
  • fan their skin while it’s moist – this will help the water to evaporate, which will help their skin cool down.
  • get them to drink fluids – these should ideally be water or a rehydration treatment
  • do not give them aspirin or paracetamol – this can put the body under more strain; they should carry on taking all other prescribed medicines unless advised not to by a medical professional

Stay with the person until they're feeling better. Most people should start to recover within 30 minutes.

Stay safe when swimming

Why is this important?

During warm weather going for a swim can provide much welcomed relief.

What can I do?

Whether you are an experienced swimmer or not, there are simple principles you should follow when swimming:

  • always look for warning and guidance signs
  • only enter the water in areas with adequate supervision and rescue cover
  • always wear a buoyancy aid or lifejacket for activities on the water or at the water’s edge (such as when boating or fishing)
  • never enter the water after consuming alcohol
  • be aware of underwater hazards
  • get out of the water as soon as you start to feel cold
  • swim parallel with the shore, not away from it
  • avoid drifting in the currents
  • do not enter fast flowing water
  • always take someone with you when you go into or near water. If something goes wrong they will be able to get help
  • if someone is in difficulty in the water shout reassurance to them, help and call the emergency services (call 999 or 112)

Get help. Call NHS 111 or in an emergency 999

Why is this important?

Severe heat exhaustion or heatstroke requires hospital treatment

What can I do?

If a person has improved with the cooling advice above but you still have concerns about them, contact your GP or NHS 111 for advice.

You should call 999 for an ambulance if:

  • the person doesn't respond to the above cooling treatments within 30 minutes
  • the person has severe symptoms, such as a loss of consciousness, confusion or seizures

If the person is unconscious move any potential hazards, then follow the steps above and place them in the recovery position (on their side with a clear airway) until help arrives.

Beat the heat checklist

This helps you to identify if a home may be at risk of overheating and if occupants there may be at risk of ill health from overheating. The second part details how to reduce overheating and where to get help.

Download the beat the heat checklist