Is heatstroke an emergency? The key things to do and when to call 999

BBC Weather: Europe heatwave to 'intensify' across region

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While many of us are enjoying the sunshine while it lasts, too much time in the sun can cause heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that can be life-threatening or can cause lifelong health complications.

Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperature control system can no longer regulate, leading to complications within the central nervous system.

Heatstroke is more likely in the elderly and young children, and in those who have been drinking alcohol or those with health conditions like diabetes and heart issues.

If you live in an urban area, you may be especially prone to develop heatstroke during a prolonged heatwave, particularly if there are stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality.

What are the symptoms of heatstroke?

As heatstroke is caused by overexposure to high temperatures and sunlight, a key symptom of heatstroke is a temperature that exceeds 40C.

The person may be feeling extremely hot but not sweating, as well as appearing confused and having shortness of breath.

In a worst-case scenario, a person suffering from heatstroke may have seizures and lose consciousness.

Early symptoms of heat exhaustion, which leads to heatstroke, include sweating profusely, being extremely thirsty and feeling sick.

If you are dehydrated, your urine will be very dark in colour and you will lose your appetite.

These symptoms are often the same in adults and in children, and quick action is needed to prevent them from turning into heatstroke.

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How do I prevent heatstroke?

The best way to prevent heatstroke is to stay out of direct sunlight during the peak hours of 11am to 3pm.

You should keep yourself well hydrated when the temperature rises and eat light foods so your body doesn’t have to work harder to burn off food.

You should keep your skin well protected with a high SPF and five-star rating sun cream if you do venture out into the sun.

What should I do if someone has heatstroke?

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of heatstroke, you should call 999 immediately.

If the person loses consciousness, put them in the recovery position while you wait for an ambulance.

Continue trying to cool them down by covering them in cold towels and keeping them in the shade.

Putting ice or cold packs on pressure points such as the wrists, ankles and back of the neck can help relieve a person suffering from heatstroke.

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