What Are the First Signs of Heat Exhaustion?

14th August, 2022, in Travel Advice & Guides

Going away for a summer holiday is always an exciting time, somewhere the sun shines, somewhere you can relax with family or friends. After the past few years, it has been a thing many of us have missed.

This year in Britain, temperatures have seen record highs resulting in many people getting ill. The same effects are being noticed in Europe too and with the holiday season in full swing, it is even more important to be aware of the potential risks and protect yourself from heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

What are the signs of heat exhaustion?

Sometimes, heat exhaustion can go largely unnoticed which is far from ideal, especially as it can lead to a far more serious heatstroke.

The signs can vary and sometimes people may show one, some, or all of them. Things to look out for would include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Arm, leg and stomach cramps
  • Feeling sick and losing appetite.
  • Fast breathing or a fast pulse
  • A temp of 38C or more
  • Being very thirsty

Both adults and children can show the same symptoms but in younger people you may find that they are sleepier or become a little floppy.

What should you do if someone has heat exhaustion?

If you see signs of heat exhaustion in someone, or feel signs of it in yourself, there are a few things you can do to make sure you recover and avoid the more dangerous heatstroke.

  • Lie down in a cool place, whether that be in the shade or a room with air conditioning.
  • Remove any unnecessary clothing to give more exposure to the skin
  • Cool the skin with whatever you have available to you. Using cold packs around the neck or armpits are very useful.
  • Fanning the skin whilst it is moist allows for the water to evaporate, this helps skin cool down.
  • Drink plenty, but only of drinks that can rehydrate. Water, fruit juice or a sports drink would be useful.
  • Painkillers are a definite no. Even though commonly used for headaches, they can be severely detrimental when suffering from heat exhaustion. They can raise temperatures and make the condition much worse.

After 30 mins, signs of recovery should be noticeable. If not, contact the emergency services.

Who is at risk of heat exhaustion?

Absolutely anybody can suffer from heat exhaustion but there are several groups of people that are most vulnerable. These would include:

  • The elderly
  • Babies and young children
  • People with a long-term health condition. Diabetes, or heart and lung conditions specifically
  • Those that are already ill and as a result dehydrated
  • Those overexerting themselves for example, manual workers.

Anybody could suffer from it though, and simply doing exercise during hot weather could be enough to see symptoms begin.

You can also find yourself at increased risk of heat exhaustion if you are on certain medications. Beta-blockers and antihistamines are common in those suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Illegal drugs can also increase the vulnerability. If you were to take ecstasy or amphetamines, you could find yourself much more prone than those that don’t.

How can you prevent heat exhaustion?

Much is down to common sense, the times you go out, the clothes you wear, the food you eat. All can lead to an increased chance of suffering from heat exhaustion. Suggestions on ways to prevent heat exhaustion include:

  • Staying out of the sun between 11am-3pm
  • If you do need to go out, stay in the shade, apply sun cream and wear a hat
  • Wear light clothes that are loose fitting
  • Avoid any extreme physical exertion

If you are hot, where you could be on the verge of heat exhaustion, you can help cool yourself down by:

  • Drinking plenty of cold drinks
  • Eating colder foods such as salads and fruit
  • Take cooler showers or baths

At some parts of the year, even doing these things can see you feeling excessively hot so you may need to keep the area you are in cool too.  Such simple things as using fans or turning off other appliances are all helpful, but you can also:

  • Keep windows and curtains exposed to the sun are closed during the day but open the windows at night when the temperature drops
  • Sleep in a cooler room if possible
  • Utilise indoor plants and bowls of water. They cool the air.


No matter where you travel this summer, stay safe. Heat can be a killer and looking after yourself and your loved ones is important. Don’t let worry spoil your holiday fun though. To remove even more worry, speak to us about holiday car hire excess insurance, you can then enjoy your summer holiday in the sun without fear of the costly excess fees often associated with hire cars! Get a free quote today!

© Strategic Insurance Services Limited 2024 | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions