Unpredictable though the British weather may be, temperatures in the UK in the summer can still reach heat wave proportions so it’s important to be aware of the dangers and prepare accordingly.

Many heat-related illnesses can be easy to prevent or treat if you notice the symptoms soon enough.
Common conditions in the summer are fainting, sunburn and dehydration. It’s better to prevent these conditions and save your staff unnecessary pain and discomfort by making sure they avoid prolonged periods in the sun without protection and drink plenty of water. This sounds obvious advice but every year people suffer.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are the most serious problems that can develop when the sun is out. It’s essential that workplace first aiders and other staff look for signs such as headaches and dizziness, and move the individual to a cooler area as soon as possible.

Prolonged exposure to the sun or lack of fluids can cause your body to dangerously overheat. Heat exhaustion is caused by the loss of salt and water from excessive sweating. Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, cramps, breathing that is fast but weak, and profuse sweating. Take the person into a cool, shady area and make them as comfortable as possible. Get them to lie down with legs raised and give them plenty of water. If you have them available, use isotonic drinks or a sachet of oral rehydration powder in water instead.

If someone is suffering from heatstroke they may have symptoms such as a rapid pulse, headache and dizziness. Their skin will be hot to the touch, red and flushed. As the condition worsens they will become disorientated and confused. It’s important to lower their body temperature as soon as possible. To treat someone suffering from heatstroke, with their permission, remove as much of their clothing as possible and dial 999 for an ambulance. Move them to a cool place and wrap them in a cold, wet sheet or a suitable alternative until their temperature falls. If a sheet isn’t available sponge them with cold water. Once their temperature returns to normal replace the sheet with a dry one and make a note of their pulse and breathing until help arrives.

Fainting can be triggered by heat. If someone faints, advise them to lie with their head down, and then raise their legs to improve blood flow to the brain. Make sure they have fresh air, and keep bystanders away if you can. Watch their face for signs of recovery, and as they begin to recover, help them to sit up gradually.

Richard Evens, Commercial Training Director, St John Ambulance

Richard is Commercial Marketing Director at St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid organisation and market leader in workplace first aid training. Responsible for training programmes and educational standards, Richard has been involved in consultation with the HSE since the early development of new guidance for the content and structure of workplace first aid training. He has liaised widely with the HSE and other stakeholders to apply the collective expertise in first aid to the new guidance, becoming a board member of the First Aid at Work Council which was created during this process.

Before joining the charity sector 10 years ago in a retail development role for Oxfam, Richard worked in marketing and logistical roles with Shell and Total Oil. He lives in north west London spending time with his family, trying to keep up with two energetic young children.