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Heatwave advice from St John Ambulance

The charity is issuing guidance as temperatures in London are set to soar beyond 30C

Water refill taps can be found outside many London stations
Water refill taps can be found outside many London stations

First aid and health response charity St John Ambulance has issued simple – potentially life-saving – advice for staying safe and cool in the current spell of hot weather.

James McNulty-Ackroyd, head of clinical delivery at St John Ambulance, said: “During this period of hot weather there are a number of things that people can do to ensure that they stay safe and well.

“The techniques we are highlighting will hopefully enable people to understand the risks of high temperatures and know how to mitigate them. I would also recommend that people in older age groups and anyone with a young child be particularly mindful as the heat can affect the elderly and the very young more severely than others. I hope everyone enjoys the sunshine but also keeps in mind these first aid tips.”

Hot weather first aid advice:

Heat exhaustion

Long periods in the sun can take its toll after a while and can lead to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is caused by a loss of salt and water from the body, usually through excessive sweating. It develops slowly and usually happens to people who aren’t used to hot, humid weather. If you’re at an outdoor event and it’s very hot, it’s easy to suffer from heat exhaustion.  

How to spot heat exhaustion:   

There are six key things that you may lead you to suspect that someone has heat exhaustion: 

  1. Headache.
  2. Dizziness.
  3. Loss of appetite and feeling sick.
  4. Sweating with pale clammy skin.
  5. Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach.
  6. Fast, weakening pulse and breathing.


How to treat heat exhaustion:   

  1. Help them to lie down in a cool place and raise their legs. 
  2. Give them lots of water to drink or isotonic sports drinks. 
  3. Check their breathing, pulse and responsiveness. 
  4. Suggest they get medical advice. Call 999/112 if you are concerned. 

Heat stroke

Heat strokeis even more serious than heat exhaustion, and can be life-threatening. 

How to spot heat stroke:   

These are the five key things to look out for: 

  1. Confusion or loss of consciousness.
  2. Body temperature above 40°C (104°F).
  3. Headache, dizziness and discomfort.
  4. Hot flushed and dry skin.
  5. A full bounding pulse.

How to treat heat stroke:   

  1. Move them to a cool place and remove their outer clothing.   
  2. Call 999/112.  
  3. Sit the individual down and wrap them in a cool, wet sheet. If there isn’t a sheet available fan them or sponge them down with cold water to keep them cool. If available, use cold packs placed in the armpits and around the neck.
  4. Once their temperature seems to have gone back to normal, replace the wet sheet with a dry sheet. 
  5. While waiting for help to arrive, keep checking their temperature, as well as their breathing, pulse and level of response. 
  6. If they start getting hot again, repeat the cooling process to lower their temperature. 

Sunburn

Whether you’re out in the park, or relaxing on the beach, it’s important to avoid too much exposure to the sun by covering up with clothing, staying in the shade and applying high factor sunscreen. Most sunburn is mild, but in severe cases the skin can become damaged, turn lobster red and blister. It is also possible to develop heat exhaustion. 


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What to look for:   

  1. Reddened skin.
  2. Pain in the area of the burn.
  3. There may be blistering.

How to treat sunburn:   

  1. Cover the skin with light clothing and move them out of the sun. 
  2. Give them cold water to sip. 
  3. Cool the skin with cool water for 10 minutes. 
  4. After-sun creams may help to soothe mild sunburn.
  5. If there are blisters, advise that they see a healthcare professional. 
  6. Treat any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke and get medical help. 

Dehydration

Dehydration happens when someone loses more fluid than they take in, especially if it’s really hot outside, so make sure you’re sipping lots of water at regular intervals.

How to spot dehydration:   

There are four key things to look for if someone is suffering from dehydration: 

  1. They may complain of headaches and light headedness.
  2. Dry mouth, eyes and lips.
  3. Pass only small amounts of dark urine.
  4. Have muscle cramps.

How to treat dehydration:   

  1. Help them to sit down and give them plenty of water to drink. 
  2. Giving them an oral rehydration solution to drink will help replace salt and other minerals which they’ve lost – you can buy this in sachets from any pharmacy. 
  3. If they have any painful cramps, encourage them to rest, help them stretch and massage their muscles that hurt.
  4. Keep checking how they’re feeling – if they still feel unwell once they’re rehydrated then encourage them to see a healthcare professional straight away.

If left untreated, someone with dehydration can develop heat exhaustion, which is more serious, so it’s important to make sure they rehydrate themselves as soon as possible.

Fainting 

Fainting is when someone briefly becomes unresponsive, often causing them to fall to the ground. It happens because for a moment, there is not enough blood flowing to the brain.

People often faint as a reaction to pain, exhaustion, hunger, or emotional stress. It is also common for people to faint after they have been standing or sitting still for a long period of time, especially if they’re feeling hot.

What to look for:

  1. There may be a brief loss of response, often causing them to fall to the ground.
  2. They may have a slow pulse.
  3. They may have pale, cold skin and sweating.

How to treat someone who has fainted:  

  1. Advise them to lie down.
  2. If possible, elevate their legs slightly using a stool, cushions or pillows. Make sure they get plenty of fresh air and ask other people to stand back.
  3. Reassure them and help them to sit up slowly, when they feel better.
  4. If they stay unresponsive, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to treat someone who is unresponsive.
  5. If the casualty fully recovers, they should be encouraged to seek medical advice. If they do not get better, call 999/112 as many faints require an assessment by a healthcare professional.

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