Advice for the summer months
Looking after yourself and others during hot weather
Hot weather can be harmful to your health so here are some key messages:
- In one hot spell in August 2003 in England, deaths in those aged 75 and over rose by 60%, with approximately 2000 total extra deaths than would normally be expected.
- Those with heart, respiratory and serious health problems are more at risk and the heat can make these conditions worse. Babies and your children are also especially at risk.
- Many prescription medicines can reduce your tolerance of heat. You should keep taking your medicines, but take extra care to keep cool.
- Danger symptoms to watch out for in hot weather include: feeling faint and dizzy, short of breath, vomiting or increasing confusion.
- Apply at least SPF 15+ sunscreen to all exposed areas of the skin. Sunscreen should not be relied upon as the only form of sun protection. No sunscreen, no matter how high the factor, can offer 100% protection.
What should you do?
Mostly, it is a matter of common sense. Listen to your local weather forecast so you know if a heat wave is on the way. Plan ahead to reduce the risk of ill health from the heat.
Keep out of the heat
- If a heat wave is forecast, try and plan your day in a way that allows you to stay out of the heat.
- If you can, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (11 am - 3 pm).
- If you can avoid strenuous outdoor activity, like sport, DIY or gardening, keep it for cooler parts of the day, like early morning or evening.
- If you must go out, stay in the shade. Wear a hat and light, loose fitting clothes, preferably cotton. If you are going to be outside for some time, take plenty of water with you.
Who is at risk?
The heat can affect anyone, but some people run a greater risk of serious harm. These include:
- Older people, especially older women and those over 75.
- Babies and your children.
- People with serious mental health problems.
- People on certain medication.
- People with a serious chronic condition, particularly breathing or heart problems.
- People who already have a high temperature from an infection.
- People who misuse alcohol or take illicit drugs.
- People with mobility problems.
- People who are physically active, like manual works and sportsmen and women.
For further information about how to protect your health during a heat wave visit the NHS Choices website or telephone NHS Direct on 0845 4647
Top tips for keeping cool
It is best for your health to avoid getting too hot in the first place. Remember to think of those who are more at risk from the effect of heat. Below are some tips to keep yourself and others cool:
- A loose, cotton, damp cloth or scarf on the back of the neck, or spraying or splashing your face and the back of your neck with cold water several times a day can help keep you cool.
- Stay inside, in the coolest rooms in your home, as much as possible.
- Reduce heat from sunlight coming through the windows. External shading e.g. shutters is best. Metal blinds and dark curtains may absorb heat and make the room warmer - it is best to use pale curtains or reflective material.
- Keep windows closed while the room is cooler that it is outside. Open them when the temperature inside rises, and at night for ventilation.
- Have plenty of cold drinks, avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.
If you, or somebody you know find your home to be uncomfortably hot and you have concerns about it affecting yours or someone else's health, seek medical advice about the person and from the environmental health department within your local authority.
Take extra care with food in hot weather
When it is hot, bacteria on food can multiply very quickly, which increases the risk of food poisoning. So it is important to make sure food is:
- Kept in cooler bags when taking it home from the supermarket or out for a picnic.
- Put in the fridge as soon as you get home - the temperature of the fridge should be between 0 and 5 degrees celsius.
- Kept out of the sun.
- Kept out of the fridge for the shortest time possible - no more than a couple of hours.
For more information about how to avoid food poisoning and barbecuing food safely see 'Food hygiene' on the NHS Choices website.
Looking after your pets
Your pets and other animals can also suffer heatstroke in hot weather if they do not keep cool. Never leave animals inside a car on a hot day and make sure they have:
- Plenty of clean, fresh water to drink
- A cool and shady place to rest
It is also important to cover pet food dishes to prevent flies laying eggs on the food. Contact a vet if you are worried that an animal is suffering from the heatstroke.
For more information about looking after your pets in hot weather visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) website.