How to stay healthy during a heatwave
08:26 02 July 2009
Thursday is expected to be the hottest day of the year so far, with the mercury rising to 33C in some areas. Naturally, plenty of Brits are concerned about the health risks that such a sweltering has in store.
Heat exhaustion and dehydration are the main threats to health when temperatures are high, and those at risk are being warned to keep out of the sun. The results of overexposure to the sun can be fatal - even for perfectly healthy individuals.
Here are some vital tips on what you can do to survive a heatwave.
Who is at risk during a heatwave?
Extreme heat is dangerous to everyone but especially so to older people, those living in care homes, and those in certain at-risk groups.
When temperatures remain abnormally high over more than a couple of days, excessive heat can prove fatal.
Those at particular risk during a heatwave include:
- Older people, especially those over 75 years old and living on their own
- People suffering from mental ill health and those reliant on help from others
- People who are bed-bound
- People taking certain types of medication
- People suffering from chronic ill health, particularly breathing or heart problems
- People who use alcohol or illicit drugs
- Babies and young children, especially under four years old
- People who are physically active such as manual workers or sportsmen/women
What symptoms should you look out for?
In a severe heatwave the body can overheat and dehydrate, leading to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- An intense thirst
- Hot red and dry skin
- A sudden rise in temperature
- Convulsions and a loss of consciousness
- Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated but can also occur suddenly and without warning. It can result in irreversible damage to the body, including the brain, or death.
Steps to take during a heatwave
- Listen to bulletins on radio and television and follow health advice
- If possible, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (11am - 3pm)
- If you must go out, stay in the shade. Wear a hat and light loose fitting clothes
- If you will be outside for some time, take plenty of water with you
- Take cool showers or baths and splash yourself several times a day with cold water, particularly your face and the back of your neck
- Try to eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit, which contain water
- Check on older relatives or neighbours, if possible, every day, and remind them to drink plenty and often
When should you seek advice?
- Watch out for cramp in the arms, legs or stomach, feelings of mild confusion, weakness or problems sleeping.
- If you do have these symptoms, rest for several hours, keep cool and drink plenty of water or fruit juice.
- Remember heatstroke can kill. It can develop rapidly and suddenly lead to unconsciousness. If you suspect someone has heatstroke call 999 immediately.