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Stay Cool, Stay Safe

Hiking in the UK almost always involves a mixture of weather - extremes of both hot and cold can be experienced in a matter of hours. I once hiked up Snowdon, from warm, summery conditions, but at the summit was in the middle of a snowstorm! Who knew you could experience sunshine and a snowstorm on the same hike? But that's the beauty (and occasional challenge) of British hiking. The good news is, with a little preparation, you can be ready for anything, including scorching summer hikes.

Following my previous blog on preventing cold-induced injury, it only makes sense to now look at heat-induced injury. Risk factors for heat related injury include prolonged periods in the sun, and fatigue, so it's clear that it is particularly relevant to remain mindful of when hiking, both for yourself and those around you!

There are two levels of severity when it comes to heat-related injury: heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion, if treated appropriately, does not require an emergency response, but without treatment can develop into the more severe heat stroke.


  • High Temperature This may seem obvious, but just with feeling excessively hot for more than a few minutes should be an indication to change something about the situation.
  • Tiredness or feeling weak. Hill walking is, by it's nature, a tiring activity, but excessive heat will advance the onset of exhaustion.
  • Excessive Sweating or skin becoming pale and clammy or getting a heat rash.
  • Dizziness or Headache This will often occur as a result of dehydration from sweating.
  • Cramps These can occur often in the arms, legs or stomach and is also related to dehydration. They may also be accompanied by feeling, or being, sick
  • Fast breathing or heartbeat at rest.

Whilst some of these symptoms are shared with the hypothermia, but the current conditions should make it obvious which of the two might be the issue.


If someone has heat exhaustion, follow these steps:

  • Move to shade Getting out of the sun, and if possible, somewhere cool is the best first step. If there is no obvious shade, then create your own using items you have on you such as clothing.
  • Remove excess clothing Remove all unnecessary clothing like a jacket or socks.
  • Drink! Lots of water is going to help here.
  • Monitor and extract Monitor the individual for signs of recovery, including their breathing, pulse and responsiveness. Prepare to extract if there any of these deteriorate. If there is no improvement after 30 minutes of rest, we are likely in heat stroke territory.


Heatstroke is caused by a failure of the ‘thermostat’ in the brain which regulates the body’s temperature. This means the body is unable to cool down when it becomes too hot.

St John Ambulance

Heatstroke is a medical emergency and requires an imediate response to prevent serious harm. Your priority is to cool the individual down as quickly as possible and get them to hospital.


The signs of heat stroke include:

  • Headache, dizziness and discomfort
  • Restlessness, confusion or unusual behaviour
  • Hot flushed and dry skin
  • A fast deterioration in the level of response
  • A full bounding pulse
  • Body temperature above 40°C (104°F).


As mentioned above, heat stroke is a medical emergency and needs to be addressed with the highest priority.

  • Get to shade Start by getting the individual to somewhere cool and remove all outer colthing if possible.
  • Call 999! and request mountain rescue assistance if nessecary.
  • Cool the individual Sit the individual down and cool them, ideally by wrapping them in a cool, wet sheet. If there are any bodies of water nearby, they can be used to contunually pour water over the individual.
  • Monitor Continue to monitor the individuals pulse and responsiveness. You must be prepared to place them in the recovery position if they become unresponsive.

Occasionlly, someone with heatstroke may experience seizures. Be prepared to recognise and treat these as appropriate.


As ever, prevention is better than cure. So ensure that you can spot the signs of a heat related injury early, and have packed appropriately. Having sufficient quantities water and appropriate layers of clothing are key.

Finally, not to sound like a parent, but if it is likely to be sunny, suncream is going to be needed - don't be that person who returns to the car looking like a lobster!


So, next time you hit the hills for a summer hike, remember: pack plenty of water, wear breathable clothing, slather on the suncream (yes, even in the UK!), and know the signs of heat-related illness. With a little planning and these handy tips, you'll be well on your way to conquering those summer hikes and enjoying the breathtaking British views!