It’s a very British thing to moan about the weather so when it is warm and dry we really try not to complain too much. However, very high temperatures and humidity can present a risk to health and we should all be aware of how to keep safe in the heat.
What are heat-related illnesses?
- Dehydration & overheating
- Heat exhaustion
- Respiratory issues
Dehydration & Overheating
When it is very hot and dry it is very important to eat a balanced diet and taking regular meals (even when you are not hungry) a balanced diet will help replace vital salts your body loses through sweating. Drinking plenty of fluids is also crucial, this usually means drinking 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day. Avoid alcohol and drinks that contain a lot of caffeine, like tea, coffee and fizzy drinks.
Symptoms of dehydration and overheating can range from slight confusion, weakness or muscle cramps in arms, legs or stomach.
You should seek medical advice if your symptoms persist or worsen.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, vomiting or feeling nauseous, losing colour from your skin (going pale), heavy sweating and raised temperature.
If you develop any of these symptoms you must seek medical advice straight away and do the following:
- Loosen or remove your clothing
- Find a cool place to rest
- Drink plenty of water
- Have a cool shower or flannel yourself with cool water if worried about losing balance in the shower.
Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated.
The symptoms of heatstroke include red and hot-to-touch skin, headaches, nausea, a high temperature, confusion, aggression, an intense thirst and even loss of consciousness.
Heatstroke can be a life-threatening condition so if you or someone else shows these symptoms call 999 immediately.
You probably know your skin type and have a good routine for general sun-damage prevention. Everyone is recommended to wear at least a factor 15 sunscreen and reapply every 2-3 hours following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat
- Wear good sunglasses (CE mark or UV400 label)
- Don’t forget to put sunscreen onto all exposed bits, feet, arms, ears and even bald patches!
- Check the expiry date on your Sun cream – this is a great tip – if you are using bottles of sun cream that have been in your cupboard for a while please check the expiry date.
- Put on sun cream at least 30 minutes before you go outside, and always put on a generous amount.
- Avoid long periods in the sun when the suns UV rays are strongest – this is between 11 am and 3 pm
- Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing
- Stay in the shade whenever possible
- Always carry a bottle of water to drink
Extreme heat can aggravate the symptoms of those suffering from a lung condition. High levels of ozone can cause breathing problems and trigger symptoms if you have a lung condition like asthma or COPD. Keeping hydrated is important too.
Check pollen count (check pollen count)
- Check air pollution in your area (check air pollution)
- Follow all the checkpoints in our ‘top-tips’ list for staying safe in the heat.
Top Tips for staying safe in the heat
- Avoid going out in the heat. The sun is at its strongest between 11 am – 3 pm.
- Wear sunscreen of at least factor 15 (remember all the exposed places like the back of the neck, feet, ears and bald spots!)
- Check the expiry date of your sunscreen.
- Put your sunscreen on at least 30 minutes before you go out in the sun
- Wear sunglasses that will protect your eyes from UV rays (CE marked or UV400 labelled)
- Wear loose, cool clothes and a hat
- Always have a bottle of water to hand
- If you are going out pack any medication and extra sunscreen
- Use a fan to keep cool, a hand-held fan can provide instant relief
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day – even if you do not feel thirsty
- Take cool baths or showers
- Find the coolest place in your house to rest and sleep
- Avoid strenuous activity and limit housework and gardening to very early morning or evenings
- Eat as normal, regular meals are essential to replace salts that are lost through sweating.
- Remember pets will be feeling the heat too – don’t walk dogs in the hottest time of day and avoid walking on hot paving stones as these can burn dog’s sensitive paws.
- Check the weather forecast at metoffice.gov.uk for the most accurate, up to date information and advice in your area
- Ask a loved one to call or check in on you in a heatwave.
- Remember the important numbers of 111 and 999 should you need to use them.