Heatstroke is common in Hong Kong’s humid summers. When your body overheats in the hills, it is dangerous and not the sort of thing you can push through and think your way out of. Your body will refuse to work, and you will beg for more water.

Make sure you can recognise the signs of heatstroke and can administer help.

Adjust for summer

Before you start your hike or run, adjust your goals. You will not set personal bests in the heat. Your body will work just as hard to go a fraction of the speed. Remain safe by allowing more time on your hikes.

Even when the city is close, you can still get stuck and unable to walk more than a few metres when you have heatstroke. Photo: Winson Wong

Set out early or late, or plan a route that has shade, to avoid the hottest part of the day. Some routes go via water or streams, which can provide a welcome dip on a hot day that keeps your core temperature down.

Freeze a bottle of water the night before and put it in your bag, next to your water or your drinking bladder. This will keep your water cool and by the time you’ve emptied your first one, the second will be melted, ready to drink and still cold.

Backpacks and hydration vests for trail runners

Apply sun cream at least 30 minutes before you start your exercise so it has time to dry, and reapply if necessary. Wear a wide brimmed hat and breathable sports clothing.

React early

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are not the same thing. The former is common, but if it turns into the latter, then you’re in trouble.

Hong Kong man dies of suspected heart attack hiking in Sai Kung

If you are beginning to feel dizzy, sick, or way more out of breath than you’d expect, get to shade and sit down. Rest for a long time. You may immediately feel better, but rest longer. If possible, do not go uphill. Exit your hike at the nearest, safest point.

Heatstroke

  • You will feel incredibly thirsty
  • Even if you sit down and recover, just a few steps uphill and you will need to sit down again
  • Standing up will make you dizzy and sick
  • Your skin can turn a green, grey colour and you will look gaunt
  • You may pant, and be very out of breath, even as you rest
  • You can experience cramps and may even vomit
  • In extreme cases, sufferers can fall unconscious.

If you experience heatstroke, or are with someone who does, here’s what you should do:

  • Stop walking, get to shade or into a breeze as soon as possible and rest
  • Take off your T-shirt, it is only insulating you now and making you hotter
  • If your water bottle is still frozen or cold, press it against the wrists or neck to cool the blood. But avoid doing this if the victim is old (over 65) or has pre-existing heart or lung conditions
  • If you have water, pour some over your body to help it cool (this can be hard to do, as it is very tempting to drink it all)
  • Drink water slowly, do not guzzle it, or sports drinks if you have
  • After a long rest, walk downhill and out of the hike as soon as possible
  • If the symptoms persist, even if you have rested and are walking downhill, call emergency services (999 in Hong Kong). Heatstroke can be deadly, leading to kidney or heart failure.