accessibility & help

British Red Cross offers tips for surviving UK heatwave

Thursday 02 June
For further information

Henry Makiwa,, 0207 877 7479 or out of hours 07659 145095

With temperatures forecast to soar across the country in the coming days, the British Red Cross is issuing first aid tips to keep people safe as the mercury rises.

Forecasters are expecting temperatures as high as 88F (31C) which, without adequate protection, could cause sunburn, heatstroke and, in extreme cases, fatalities amongst people who are particularly vulnerable.

“Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been over-exposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Simple steps such as avoiding exposure to the hottest time of the day, drinking plenty of fluids and even simply wearing a hat on hot days can all make a real difference,” said Joe Mulligan, head of first aid education at the British Red Cross.
Simon Lewis, the British Red Cross head of emergency planning and response added: “Elderly people, young children and those who are poorly are most at risk. Checking on neighbours and elderly friends who may be less able to look after themselves is vitally important to ensure vulnerable people are coping.”
In one hot spell in August 2003 in England, deaths in those aged 75 and over rose by 60%, with approximately 2000 total extra deaths than would normally be expected .
Here are some basic first aid tips from the British Red Cross that can be employed for heat exhaustion, heat stroke and general advice on how to prepare and cope with the hotter temperatures:
Heat exhaustion
This condition is caused by an abnormal loss of salt and water from the body through excessive sweating. It usually develops gradually.   
Signs and symptoms include:
Cramp-like pains and/or headache, pale, moist skin, fast, weak pulse, slightly raised temperature
1. Help the casualty to lie down in a cool place
2. Raise their legs to improve blood flow.
3. Cool them with water or a fan
4. Give the casualty plenty of water to drink or a non-fizzy drink to replace lost fluids.
5. Call an ambulance.

Heat stroke
This potentially dangerous condition occurs when the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, due to illness or prolonged exposure to heat and humidity.

Signs and symptoms include:

Restlessness, headache, dizzy feeling, flushed and very hot skin, rapid loss of consciousness, fast, strong pulse and raised body temperature.

1. Get the casualty to a cool place and lie them down and make them comfortable
2. Cool them with a cold wet sheet if available.  If not, use water or a fan
3. Call an ambulance
4. When their temperature returns to normal replace the wet sheet with a dry one.
5. Monitor their symptoms until help arrives

How to prepare for and survive a heat wave
Before a heat wave
• Make sure you have plenty of bottled water in case of drought or local problems with supply
• Stock up on high-protection sun creams and plan ahead to minimise work and exercise outdoors during the hottest times of the day.  

During a heat wave
• In the heat of the day, stay indoors as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning, stay on the lowest floor where it will be cooler.
• Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by your doctor.
• Drink plenty of water regularly even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty.
• Remember, alcohol causes dehydration, so limit your intake.
• Dress in loose-fitting clothes and protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
• Avoid too much sunshine and use a sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher.
• Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day; try not to work alone when working in extreme heat and take frequent breaks.
• Regularly check on family and friends who are vulnerable, such as elderly people, and never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.


For more information on the British Red Cross please visit:

Notes to editors

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies
in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on
with their lives.

Follow us on Twitter: