How to prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can often be prevented by taking sensible precautions when it's very hot.

During the summer, check for heatwave warnings, so you're aware when there's a potential danger. The government uses a system called Heat-Health Watch to warn people about the chances of a heatwave. This isa system of four different warning levels based on the expected temperature.

Public Health England (PHE) has also published a Heatwave plan for England (PDF, 1.19Mb) , which suggests following the advice below during a heatwave to help prevent heat-related illnesses.

Stay out of the heat

  • Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
  • If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf.
  • Avoid extreme physical exertion.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.

If you're travelling to a hot country, be particularly careful for at least the first few days, until you get used to the temperature.

Cool yourself down

  • Have plenty of cold drinks, andavoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.
  • Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • Sprinkle water overyour skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.

If youre not urinating frequently or your urine is dark, it's a sign that you're becoming dehydrated andneed to drink more.

Keep your environment cool

  • Keep windows and curtainsthat are exposed to the sun closed during the day, but open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
  • If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping.
  • Electric fans may provide some relief.
  • Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment, asthey generate heat.
  • Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house, asthese can cool the air.

In the longer term, it can help to have your loft and cavity walls insulated, as thiswill keep the heat in when it's cold and keep it out when it's hot. Using light-coloured, reflective external paint on your house may also be useful.

Look out for others

  • Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool.
  • Ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars.
  • Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave.
  • Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is unwell or further help is needed.

Read about how to prepare for a heatwave.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018