Heat exhaustion: Keep cool at work this summer

A construction worker drinking a sports drink

The great British summer doesn't often bring hot temperatures, but when the sun does make an appearance, people may find themselves in hot working conditions – which can lead to heat exhaustion.

Heat can come from many other sources besides the sun, such as machinery and equipment found in bakeries, factories, laundries and restaurant kitchens.

If you find yourself in a hot working environment this summer, here's how to recognise and give first aid for heat exhaustion.

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion happens when someone loses fluid and salt through excessive sweating, which is the body's way of trying to cool down when it's too hot – e.g. due to:

  • being in a hot, humid environment
  • not being accustomed to the heat
  • other factors, such as physical exertion.

It normally develops gradually and people who are unwell, older or very young are more susceptible than others.

A construction worker looks dizzy as a colleague looks on

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

  • The person may be dizzy or confused and complain of a headache.
  • They may be sweating and have pale, cool skin.
  • They may feel nauseous.

How to help someone with heat exhaustion

If you think someone may have heat exhaustion, you can help the person by following three simple steps.

  1. Help the person to a cool place and get them to rest.
    • This will help them to start to cool down. 
    • Helping the person to lie down and raising their legs can help them to stop feeling dizzy.
  2. Give them plenty of water to drink.
    • Tell them to take small sips regularly.
    • Isotonic sports drinks are even better as they will also help to replace salts lost through sweating.
  3. Seek medical advice.
    • Even if the person appears to recover fully, advise them to seek medical advice.
    • If their condition deteriorates, call 999 for emergency help.

Learn more

Our first aid work courses give you the skills and confidence to respond to a range of first aid emergencies you could encounter, including helping someone who is suffering from a heat-related illness.

Find out more about first aid at work courses

© British Red Cross 2017