Heat stress, heat exhaustion & heatstroke during a heatwave

21st July 2021

HSE advises about heat stress, heat exhaustion and heatstroke as potentially serious health risks for people during a heatwave

Following a status yellow high temperature warning for Ireland, the HSE is advising people to stay safe in the heat and to be mindful of heat stress, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. In heatwaves, significant increases in mortality can occur, especially in older people, young children and more vulnerable groups.

HSE advice to stay safe:

Keep cool 
·       Minimise unnecessary heating – turn off central heating, electrical equipment and lights that are not needed.
·       Keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm – stay in the shade or cover windows that are exposed to direct sunlight.

·       If you have to go outdoors, protect your skin by using shade, wearing clothing that covers the skin, a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen of 30+ for adults and 50+ for children.

·       Use natural ventilation such as opening windows when the air feels cooler outside than inside (e.g at night) and where it is safe, secure and feasible to do so.
·       Increase air flow through buildings wherever possible.
·       Evaporative cooling – dampening your skin may help keep you cool.
·       If you are using air conditioning, make sure it is using a fresh air supply, which is important to prevent spread of Covid-19.
·       Electric fans need to be used with caution, as they may not be safe for higher temperatures and should not be used where a person may be incubating or a case of Covid-19.

Stay hydrated
·       Make sure you have enough water to drink. It is important to stay hydrated.
·       You might like to leave drinks in the fridge.
·       An adult needs approximately 2 litres of liquid over 24 hours. This may be less for smaller people or those with medical conditions.
·       Drink more fluids when you feel any dehydration symptoms. The best fluids to drink are water or oral rehydration sachets – chat to your pharmacist about how to use these safely.
·       Drink enough during the day so your urine is a pale clear colour.

–       If you or someone you know is attending for their COVID vaccine, or for a COVID test, this week, please make sure to drink plenty of water and to bring a hat or a snack, as the centres are busy and you might be waiting outside for a little while.

Who is particularly vulnerable?
Heatwaves can affect any of us, but those most at risk are:
·       Babies and children.
·       People >65 years old.
·       People with underlying health conditions including problems with breathing, heart, kidneys, or diabetes.
·       People with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
·       People who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places – those who work outdoors or people who are living in homeless settings.

Carers – making sure someone drinks enough
The person you are caring for may not have a sense of how much they’re drinking.
To help them:
·       make sure they drink during mealtimes.
·       make drinking a social thing, like “having a cup of tea”.
·       offer them food with a high water content – for example, ice cream or jellies, or fruits like melon.

When to get medical help
Contact your GP or the ED if you are unwell and especially if you are showing signs of serious dehydration that needs urgent care:
·       are confused and disorientated.
·       feel very dizzy.
·       have not peed all day.
·       feel like your heart is beating fast.
·       have fits (seizures).
·       are caring for someone who is drowsy or difficult to wake.

For more information please visit:


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