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Summer Brings the Heat - Beware of Heat Exhaustion

  Summertime’s in Beijing see temperatures hovering around between 30-40 degrees. This may be normal for the locals, but for those coming from cooler climates abroad, whether it be holidaying, school exchange or work, dealing with these immense temperatures can take quite a toll on the body.

Health risks for prolonged heat exposure

  Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are two potentially serious conditions that can occur if you get too hot.

  Beware of heat exhaustion or heatstroke during:

▶ Heatwaves

▶ Hot climates

▶ Or undertaking very strenuous physical exercise

Heat exhaustion is where you become very hot and start to lose water or salt from your body, symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse. Heat exhaustion is one of the three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.


Heatstroke is where the body is no longer able to cool itself and a person’s body temperature becomes dangerously high. Heatstroke is less common, but more serious. It can put a strain on the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys, and can be life-threatening. If heat exhaustion isn’t spotted and treated early on, there’s a risk it could lead to heatstroke.

Sunstroke on the other hand is when someone is exposed to direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time causing the same symptoms and problems as a heatstroke.

At-risk groups

  Anyone can develop heat exhaustion or heatstroke during a heatwave or while doing heavy exercise in hot weather. However, some people are at a higher risk.

These include:


 the elderly

 babies and young children

Health conditions

▶ people with a serious chronic condition, especially heart or breathing problems

▶ people who are already ill and dehydrated (for example, from gastroenteritis)

▶ certain medications: diuretics, antihistamines, beta-blockers, antipsychotics can interfere with the body’s ability to dissipate heat.

Work conditions & lifestyle

▶ people doing strenuous exercise for long periods, such as military soldiers, athletes, hikers and manual work

▶ people sitting in poorly ventilated rooms on hot days

▶ people wearing tight, restrictive clothing during excessively hot weather

▶ alcohol and drug abuse

Tips for coping in hot weather

Cool your environment:

 draw your curtains or blinds that are exposed to the sun during the hottest part of the day

 turn off non-essential electrical equipment, as they generate heat

 indoor plants and blows of water in the house can cool the air

 if you have no air-conditioning, an electric fan can provide some relief

 Keep yourself cool:

▶ Keep out of the sun between 12pm and 4pm

 Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.

 Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.

 Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.

▶ Keep hydrated. Heat-related illness can also result from salt depletion, so it may be advisable to substitute an electrolyte-rich sports drink for water during periods of extreme heat and humidity

▶ Avoid fluids containing caffeine or alcohol, because both substances can make you lose more fluids and worsen heat-related illness.

  If you’re not urinating frequently or your urine is dark, it’s a sign that you’re becoming dehydrated and need to drink more.

First Aid response for Heatstroke

  Heat exhaustion or heatstroke can develop quickly over a few minutes, or gradually over several hours or days.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion can include:

 tiredness and weakness

 feeling faint or dizzy

 a decrease in blood pressure

 a headache

 muscle cramps

 feeling and being sick

 heavy sweating

 intense thirst

 a fast pulse

 urinating less often and having much darker urine than usual

  If left untreated, more severe symptoms of heatstroke can develop, including confusion, disorientation, seizures (fits) and a loss of consciousness

What to do

 Get the person to a cool place – air-conditioned room or shade

 Remove excess clothing – let their skin breathe

▶ Cool their skin – use a cool damp cloth on their skin

 Fan their skin while its moist – water evaporating from the skin while fanning will help cool the skin down more

 Give them fluids to drink – ideally water, fruit juice, or a sports drunk

  Most people should start to recover within 30 mins.

When to call for help:

  If you suspect that someone has heatstroke, immediately call 999/120 or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.

Call for an ambulance when:

▶ the person doesn’t respond to the above treatment within 30 minutes

▶ the person has severe symptoms, such a loss of consciousness, confusion or seizures

  In the event of a person being unconscious, you should follow the steps above for cooling them down and place the person in the recovery position until help arrives. If they have a seizure, more nearby objects out of the way to prevent injury.

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