Spotting the difference between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke can sometimes be tricky, yet they require some very different first aid responses.

Summer is finally upon us in the UK. Well for the rest of the week anyway. As we are potentially about to hit the hottest day of the year, if not ever (in the UK). With that in mind, it’s always good to brush up on some heat related first aid.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat Exhaustion typically occurs when the body’s core temperature reaches over 38 degrees C. It’s a response to the body losing to much water and body salts, usually through sweating.

The person will usually feel a little bit dizzy and may look pale and sweaty. They may also be suffering from loss of appetite, nausea or actual vomiting. Their pulse rate and breathing rate may also increase and they could be experience cramps in the arms and legs.

Treatment for Heat Exhaustion would be to get the person out of the sun and into somewhere cool or shaded. They should be encouraged to remove any excess clothing and takes sips of water to re-hydrate. Isotonic sports drinks can also be used. They should make a good recovery but may wish to seek medical advice. This could be through the 111 service. If they don’t start to recover, then it could be Heat Stroke.

A lady sweating and fanning herself due to heat exhaustion.

Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke is much more serious then Heat Exhaustion, although most people don’t realise this. Heat Stroke usually results from the failure of the part of the brain that deals with temperature control. Core temperature could now be over 40 degrees C.

Heat stoke is usually recognised by the fact the person will be very hot to the touch but be very dry, as they are no longer sweating. They will probably be severely confused and complaining of a throbbing headache.

Treatment for Heat Stroke is like Heat Exhaustion, but this time we need to be calling 999 or 112 for emergency help. We also want to try and cool the person down rapidly. This can be done by wetting an outer layer of clothing or wrapping them in a wet sheet.

You can find more information on Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke on the NHS website at

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