Heatwave first aid tips: Staying safe in the hot weather

Heatwave First Aid Tips for the Hot Weather

The great British summertime has well and truly arrived. With temperatures often soaring well above 30°C, people up and down the country are getting out and making the most of the sun. 

It always pays to be careful and cautious in the extreme heat though. Have a read of our essential first aid tips, they'll ensure you have a safe summer - whether you're in the UK or abroad. 

Playing sports in the park

Heatwave First Aid, Park
Cricket, football or frisbee in the park are great ways to enjoy the summer sun. But, all that running around makes you sweat and getting too dehydrated can be harmful and lead to heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion happens when someone loses too much fluid and salt from sweating in hot conditions. If a person has heat exhaustion, they may: 

  • be dizzy or confused and complain of a headache
  • be sweating and have pale, cool skin
  • feel nauseous

What to do: 

  1. Help them to a cool place and get them to rest. This will help them start cooling down.
  2. Give them plenty of water to drink. Isotonic sports drinks are even better as they will also help replace the salts lost through sweating.
  3. Seek medical advice. Even if the person appears to recover fully, they should seek medical advice. If their condition gets worse, call 999 for emergency help.

Relaxing on the beach

Heatwave First Aid Tips, Beach
Whether you're going abroad or enjoying a 'staycation' in the UK, heading to the coast is a great way to keep cool in the hotter weather. The sea breeze and regular dips in the sea help keep your body temperature down, but bear in mind that the sun is still very strong and precautions must be taken.

Prevention is always better than cure, so be sure to apply high factor sun cream generously and often. If you do get sunburnt, here's what to do:

Sunburn

What to do:

  1. Move into the shade.
  2. Have frequent sips of cold water. Cool the affected skin by dabbing with cold water.
  3. Apply after sun lotion to soothe the area. 

Heatstroke   

We all like spending time in the sun, but sitting out for too long can cause the body to overheat and can lead to heatstroke.

Heatstroke happens when the body gets so hot that it can't control its temperature. It's much less common than sunburn but more serious - the person needs help straight away. 

Heatstroke symptoms include:

  • having hot, flushed, dry skin
  • having a headache, feel dizzy or being confused and restless
  • getting worse quickly and become unresponsive.

What to do:

  1. Call 999 immediately or get someone else to do it. 
  2. Cool them. Quickly move them into a cool environment and remove outer clothing. Wrap them in a cold, wet sheet and begin pouring water over them. 
  3. Keep cooling them while waiting for help to arrive. If their temperature returns to normal and they no longer feel hot to touch, you can stop cooling them. 

A picnic in the countryside

Heatwave First Aid, Picnic
Countryside walks and a homemade picnic are best enjoyed in the sunshine. All that delicious food however, can attract insects - some of which may bite or sting. 

Bites and stings

What to do

  1. If someone has been stung and the sting is visible on the skin, use the edge of a credit card to scrape it away.
  2. Apply an ice-pack to the affected area to minimise pain and swelling. 

Stung in the mouth or throat? Get them to suck an ice cube or sip a glass of cold water to prevent swelling. If swelling does start to develop call 999 straight away as it could block their airway. 

Getting worse?

Watch for signs of a more severe allergic reaction. These include a rash, itchiness or swelling on a person's hands, feet or face. Their breathing may also slow down.  

What to do:

  1. Call 999.
  2. Reassure them while waiting for the ambulance.
  3. If they have a known allergy and an auto-injector (EpiPen), help them use it. Or do it yourself by following the instructions on the product.  

Read more about first aid for allergic reactions

A BBQ in the garden

Heatwave First Aid Tips, Barbeque
A barbecue with friends and family is a great way to spend a sunny afternoon, but sometimes accidents happen.

Burns

What to do: 

  1. Cool the burn under cold running water for at least ten minutes. This will help to reduce pain, swelling and the risk of scarring. The faster and longer a burn is cooled, the smaller the impact of the injury.
  2. After the burn has been cooled, cover it with cling film or a clean plastic bag to help prevent infection by keeping the area clean. Plastic bags won't stick to a burn and reduce pain by keeping air away from the skin's surface.
  3. Call 999 if the burn is more serious or if a baby or child has been burned. 

No water? No problem.

If you don't have immediate access to cold running water, you can use any cold harmless liquid like orange juice - or even a cold beer - to cool the burn as quickly as possible. 

Read more about first aid for burns.

First aid at your fingertips

adult app
Before you head out into the sunshine, be sure to download our free first aid app. Equip yourself with essential first aid information without needing to connect to the internet. 

Download our free first aid app

© British Red Cross 2018