I’m a pharmacist – here’s how you can treat heat rashes and strokes during this heatwave

Here we are again in the grip of another British heatwave.

Just weeks after the UK hit temperatures of 40C, England is once again basking in sweltering temperatures.


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Britons are dealing with sunnier days, sweltering nights and nasty side effects like heat rashes and, even worse, heat stroke.

But how do you deal with stinging red marks and heat exhaustion? Better yet, how do you prevent them from happening in the first place? Here we ask the experts.

Heat rash – or to give it its scientific name miliaria rubra – is caused by excessive sweating.

Excess sweat blocks the sweat glands located under the skin and causes your sweat to leak into the surrounding tissues.

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This leak can cause irritation and redness that can be stinging and painful.

The rash usually looks like tiny bumps surrounded by red skin. It tends to happen on the dressed parts of your body, like your back or your neck.

Deputy Superintendent and Well Pharmacy pharmacist George Sandhu said the rash usually gets better on its own after a few days.

However, to prevent the rash from getting worse, George says the skin should be kept as “cool as possible, so you don’t sweat and irritate the rash”.

Wearing loose cotton or linen clothes will also keep the skin cool, as will showers with cold water, but avoid using scented shower gels or creams.

For instant relief, George suggested applying something cold to the rash, such as a damp cloth or an ice pack (wrapped in a tea towel) for up to 20 minutes.

Heatstroke can affect anyone, but especially children, the elderly, and people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes or heart problems.

“So it’s important to pay special attention to these groups,” George said.

Drinking plenty of cold water, especially during exercise, is an effective way to prevent heatstroke, George said.

He also suggested avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, taking cool showers or baths, and wearing loose clothing.

“It’s also important to avoid the sun when it’s at its highest point in the day, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.,” he added.

George said heatstroke is often characterized by a high body temperature of 38C or more, nausea and headaches.

Other symptoms may include dizziness and confusion, loss of appetite, excessive sweating, pale, clammy skin, and extreme thirst.

It is also possible to have cramps in the arms, legs, stomach and breathing.

If you think someone you know may be suffering from heat stroke, you can try to calm them down first.

George suggested moving the person to a cool place, raising their feet slightly, and getting them to drink plenty of water (sports drinks should also work).

“It may also be helpful to cool their skin with a spray or sponge with cold water and to fan them.

“A cool pack wrapped in a tea towel around your neck and armpits is also good,” he added.

It’s important that you stay with them until they recover and feel better, which should usually be within 30 minutes.

The warm weather is now expected to continue into next week, with the Met Office predicting highs of 35C.

The alert was in place until Sunday, but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has now extended it until Tuesday August 16.

Chiefs sounded the alarm for the first time on Tuesday this week and said temperatures would not drop below 20 degrees.

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Now the Met has said temperatures will remain in the low 20s until early next week – with northern regions seeing temperatures drop from Monday.

Medical chiefs have said young children, those with underlying health conditions and the elderly are more likely to experience adverse health effects.

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