During extremely hot weather, it is easy to become dehydrated or for your body to overheat.
This can lead to life-threatening heat-related illness such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Heat can also make existing illnesses worse (for example may trigger a heart attack in someone with a heart condition), cause serious permanent injuries (such as damage to the brain or other vital organs), and in extreme cases result in death.
If the body temperature rises above 37.8 degrees Celsius a person may develop a heat-related illness. In very hot weather, the body must work hard and produce a lot of sweat to keep itself cool.
Sometimes sweating isn’t enough and a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. This is more likely to happen when it is humid, or when a person is dehydrated and cannot produce enough sweat.
Some people are at higher risk of heat-related illness. For example, elderly people and people taking certain medications have difficulty producing sweat.
Young children are also at risk as they produce more body heat, sweat less and have more rapid rises in body temperature.
Heat-related illness includes:
Mild to moderate dehydration makes the heart work faster and leads to reduced fluid available for sweating.
Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
Symptoms of heat cramps include muscle pains and spasms.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat.
Those most at risk of developing heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with chronic diseases, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.
If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can turn into heat stroke.
Seek urgent medical attention or call an ambulance if necessary if symptoms worsen or if there is no improvement.
Heat stroke occurs when the body temperature rises above 40.5 degrees Celsius.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. Immediate first aid is very important to lower body temperature as quickly as possible.
Do not give a person with heat stroke aspirin or paracetamol as they do not help and may be harmful.