First aid guidelines to treat heat exhaustion & sunburn

The Indian Meteorological Department recently issued a heat wave warning in north Maharashtra, and the maximum temperature reached closer to 41 degrees Celsius. Similar is the situation in other parts of India where mercury level is going up day by day. While most people prefer to stay indoors when the sun is at its maximum, many are forced to step outside for various purposes. As the temperatures are expected to remain high, it is important to take preventive steps to tackle heat-related ailments, particularly dehydration and heat exhaustion, which could lead to Heat Strokes. While senior citizens, children, outdoor workers and athletes are most susceptible to heat stroke, it is imperative that everyone exercises caution!


Staying outdoors for long hours can lead to heat exhaustion and sunburn. If you are experiencing either of the two, follow these first aid steps immediately:


  • Move into a cool place, out of direct sunlight
  • Remove excessive clothing, and make sure the surface of your skin is exposed to air as much as possible
  • Cool your entire body by spraying cold water, and fan yourself to help lessen body temperature
  • Rub on ice packs on your armpits and on the back of the neck to avoid itching
  • Do not take medicines such as Aspirin to bring down a high body temperature that can occur with heat exhaustion. There could be adverse reaction to these medicines, as the body’s reaction to heat exhaustion
  • Consume sufficient amounts of fluids 1ltr-2ltr over 1 to 2 hours, to keep yourself hydrated

This is a medical emergency, if untreated, it can progress to Sun Stroke, which can be dangerous to life. Sunstroke sets in when body temperature goes beyond 40 degree Celsius. Primary treatment also includes leg raising, as many patient may be having Hypotension



  • Relax your burned skin with a cool & soggy washcloth. Or take a cool shower& pat your skin dry afterwards. Be gentle while doing this as your sunburn may be painful
  • Apply lotion such as Aloe Cera or use a Hydrocortisone cream to tackle the itch. Do not use any cream that contains Petroleum, Benzocaine, or Lidocaine. These ingredients can aggravate the skin even more
  • If the sunburn is really painful, take Vitamin E, Vitamin C and antioxidants to relieve the pain
  • Sunburn can dehydrate out your body. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • It will take some time for sunburn to heal. Cover your affected skin with clothing when you go outside
  • See a doctor if you have blisters caused by sunburn, or if you get a fever or chills
  • Even eyes are at risk of sun burn and need to protect them by using sun glasses with UV protection.
  • Don’t pop the blisters; they could get infected


You can’t change the climate, but there are some things you can do to ease the risk for heat exhaustion

  • Wear lightweight and light colored clothes. Dark colors attract and absorb heat, which may raise your body temperature
  • Avoid going outdoors between 10.00 am. & 4.00 pm
  • Cover your head with a scarf or a cap to keep the sun off; that can help control your body temperature
  • Drink ample amounts of water, stay hydrated, carry a water bottle with you at all times
  • When it is hot outside, limit your outdoor workouts to early morning or evening before the sun is out in its full force
  • Swimming is also a good way to get exercise when it’s hot outside
  • Never stay in a hot and closed car, even for a few minutes. Temperatures in cars can rise quickly. Refrain from keeping kids or animals unattended in cars
  • Protect your skin by using a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more when exposed to the sun. Sunscreen should be put on 15 to 30 minutes before you are in the sun, and reapplied every hour to hour and a half

(Writer is Dr Farah Ingale, Internal Medicine Specialist, Hiranandani Hospital and Dr Sanjay Shah, Consultant Physician & Internist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.Views expressed are a personal opinion.)


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