With temperatures soaring this week and heat waves becoming more common, plotholders need to be aware of the dangers of over-doing it when it’s very hot.

Yesterday one of our members at Northleigh Road, Ward End, Birmingham, had heat exhaustion after spending all day on her plot weeding and tending her crops.  She was on her own when the symptoms started late afternoon but fortunately some other plotholders turned up and we were able to assist.

What is heat exhaustion?

It’s exhaustion brought about by the body overheating.  If not dealt with, it can be dangerous and turn into heatstroke

According to the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke, the signs of heat exhaustion include the following, but you may not have all of these:

  • a headache
  • dizziness and confusion
  • loss of appetite and feeling sick
  • excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
  • cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
  • fast breathing or pulse
  • temperature of 38C or above
  • being very thirsty

The symptoms are often the same in adults and children, although children may become floppy and sleepy.

What to do about it if you think you or someone else is suffering from heat exhaustion

The most important thing is to cool down as soon as possible. So:

  1. Move to a cool place, or at least out of the sun and into the shade.
  2. Loosen or take off any tight or extra clothing
  3. Lie down and raise your feet slightly, so blood can flow to your heart.
  4. Drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK too.
  5. Cool your skin – spray or sponge it with cool water.  Fan yourself or get someone else to do it. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good, too.  Take a cool shower or bath when you get home.
  6. Make sure someone stays with you till you feel better, which should be within 30 minutes.


is serious and the next stage on from heat exhaustion.  According to the NHS website, Heat exhaustion is not usually serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes. But if you start suffering from symptoms like nausea and vomiting, feeling confused, rapid breathing or racing heart, it could be heatstroke and it needs to be treated as an emergency/

Heatstroke can affect your bodily organs if not treated quickly, so seek immediate medical attention if the symptoms don’t go away.

Preventing heat exhaustion and heatstroke

The NHS website warns that here’s a high risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke during hot weather or exercise.   This includes digging, weeding and other activities on the allotment, especially plots with no shade to work in during the hottest hours of the day.

Their general advice to help prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke is to:

  • drink plenty of cold drinks, especially when exercising
  • take cool baths or showers
  • wear light-coloured, loose clothing
  • sprinkle water over skin or clothes
  • avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
  • avoid excess alcohol
  • avoid extreme exercise

This will also prevent dehydration and help your body keep itself cool.

Preventing and dealing with heat exhaustion on the allotment

  • In hot weather, aim to do your allotment maintenance before 11 or late afternoon, not the middle of the day
  • Always bring several bottles of water if you going to spend hours on your plot OR make sure you have ready access to a drinking water supply on the site
  • Wear a hat as well as light-coloured loose clothing
  • Vary your activities and keep the heavier jobs for cooler days
  • Take a break or go home if you start getting any heat exhaustion symptoms
  • Try to avoid working on your own on the site when it’s hot; if you are on your own, make sure someone else knows you’re there and have a mobile phone to call for help from someone who can access the site if the gate is locked
  • Keep an eye on children, older plotholders and people with long-term health conditions like diabetes or heart problems because they’re more at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  If you do have health problems, it may be best to do something else when the weather is very hot!

Dehydration symptoms – a warning that you could get heat exhaustion

  1. feeling thirsty.
  2. dark yellow and strong-smelling pee.
  3. feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  4. feeling tired.
  5. a dry mouth, lips and eyes.
  6. peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day.

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