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From: Climate change – Footsteps 99

We all have a role to play in tackling climate change

If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, rehydration drinks can help. Illustration: Petra Röhr-Rouendaal/Where there is no artist (second edition)

If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, rehydration drinks can help. Illustration: Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Where there is no artist (second edition).

Periods of intense heat, known as heatwaves, are becoming more common because of climate change. When it is very hot, people can suffer from health problems such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. In 2015, thousands of people died in India and Pakistan during a heatwave.

Anyone can develop illnesses caused by the heat. However, the risk is higher for groups such as children, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can develop when someone is exposed to high temperatures and their body loses water and salt. It is less serious than heatstroke, but it can lead to heatstroke if it is not treated soon enough.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion vary, but may include:

Treating heat exhaustion

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, you should:

If the person does not respond to this treatment within 30 minutes, seek medical help.


Heatstroke is less common than heat exhaustion, but it is much more serious. It happens when the body loses its ability to sweat and cool itself down, causing the body’s temperature to rise dangerously high. Heatstroke can have many of the same symptoms as heat exhaustion (see above), but may also include:

Heatstroke can cause death or permanent disability.

Treating heatstroke

If you suspect that someone may be suffering from heatstroke, seek medical help immediately. Any delay can be fatal.

While you are waiting for medical help to arrive (or while you are taking the person to a health centre), follow the advice (left) for treating heat exhaustion. In addition:

Staying healthy in the heat

Here are some simple steps to help protect yourself during very hot weather:

Adapted from Cathy Travis, Extreme heat & how to prevent heat-related illnesses (Interhealth), with reference to the UK’s National Health Service websites and

See for more details.

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