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Stay safe and healthy this summer

Most of us welcome hot weather, but when it’s too hot for too long there are health risks. Look after your family this summer with our advice.

The very young, the elderly and the seriously ill are particularly at risk of health problems when the weather is very hot. In particular, very hot weather can make heart and breathing problems worse.  You may not know this, but heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated.

An average temperature of 30°C by day and 15°C overnight would trigger a health alert from The Meterological Office. These temperatures can have a significant effect on people's health if they last for at least two days.

Why is a heatwave a problem?

The main risks posed by a heatwave are:

  • dehydration (not having enough water)
  • overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing 
  • heat exhaustion 
  • heatstroke

Who is most at risk?

A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people in extreme heat are:

  • older people, especially those over 75
  • babies and young children 
  • people with a serious chronic condition, especially heart or breathing problems 
  • people with mobility problems, for example people with Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke 
  • people with serious mental health problems 
  • people on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control 
  • people who misuse alcohol or drugs 
  • people who are physically active and outside during the hottest hours of the day, for example labourers or those doing sports

Our tips for coping in hot weather

The following advice applies to everybody when it comes to keeping cool and comfortable and reducing health risks:

  • Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun and don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat.
  • Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn't possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter). 
  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. If it’s safe, open them for ventilation when it is cooler. 
  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water. 
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and fruit juice. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol. 
  • Stay tuned to the weather forecast on the radio or TV, or at the Met Office website. 
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
  • Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool. 
  • Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat if you go outdoors. 
  • Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.
If you or someone feels unwell, get them somewhere cool to rest. Give them plenty of fluids to drink.   If symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, weakness, dizziness or cramps get worse or don’t go away, seek medical help.