Warning! Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Risk in the Western Cape | Western Cape Government


Warning! Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Risk in the Western Cape

27 February 2011

Temperatures in the Western Cape have risen to dangerous levels and everyone should be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Babies and the elderly are particularly at risk as are people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Heat stroke is often fatal and should be treated as a true medical emergency. Heat exhaustion is a less severe condition but can quickly progress to heat stroke if left untreated. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur when the body is unable to lower its temperature to normal levels by radiation through the skin or by sweating. Dehydration can cause heat stroke because the body is unable to sweat fast enough to dissipate the heat.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Paleness
  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness

If the symptoms are severe or the victim has a heart condition or high blood pressure, seek urgent medical help.

Otherwise help the victim to cool off and give plenty of water with added sugar and a little salt. You can make this sugar-salt solution at home: 1 litre of clean water to 8 teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. Do not add too much salt - the mixture should taste only as salty as tears. Sports drinks or commercial oral rehydration solution are also effective. If the symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour, seek urgent medical attention.

Avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

  • Keep cool: stay out of the sun as much as possible and use baths or showers to keep cool. If you do not have a bath or shower, you can wrap yourself in wet towels or cloth
  • Avoid exertion: keep physical activity to a minimum
  • Protect heads from the sun - especially babies and children. Do not overdress your baby
  • Always carry drinking water with you, preferably the sugar-salt solution.

Remember: Children under two years are at high risk of dehydration leading rapidly to death particularly if they have diarrhoea and/or vomiting. Use the sugar-salt solution to help them not to dry out and seek medical attention as soon as you possibly can.

Issued by the Directorate: Communications
Western Cape Department of Health.

Media Enquiries: 

Sithembiso Magubane
Tel: 021 483 9981