Written by: Ellie Chow
This month the temperatures are rising, and the summer that we have all waited for has arrived. Most of us welcome hot and sunny weather, but when it is too hot for too long, there are health risks. In UK there are on average 2000 heat related deaths every year. It is, therefore, important that you know how to stay healthy and do not put yourself at risk.
Who is most at risk?
A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:
- Older people – especially those over 75
- People who have a serious or long term illness – including heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease or some mental health conditions
- Those who may find it hard to keep cool – babies and the very young, the bed bound, those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer’s disease
- People who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places
Why is a heatwave a problem?
- Not drinking enough water – dehydration
- As your body sweats more to cool you down, if you do not drink more water to replace the fluid and salt you have lost, you can overheat and dehydrate
- Overheating can be worse for people with heart or breathing conditions
Dizziness is a sign of heat exhaustion, which is caused by spending too much time in excessive heat. Other symptoms include: headache, confusion, heavy sweating, nausea, cramps, a fast pulse and extreme thirst. Make sure you know how to cool someone down who might be experiencing heat exhaustion.
Things you can do to cool someone down
- Move them to a cool place.
- Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
- Get them to drink plenty of water.
- Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good, too.
A more severe consequence of hot weather is heatstroke, it is a medical emergency which can cause organ damage if not treated promptly.
Immediate action required, call 999 if:
You or someone else have any signs of heatstroke:
- Feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water
- Not sweating even while feeling too hot
- A high temperature of 40C or above
- Fast breathing or shortness of breath
- Feeling confused
- A fit (seizure)
- Loss of consciousness
- Not responsive
- Heatstroke can be very serious if not treated quickly.
Tips for keeping cool and preventing heatstroke
To help prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke:
- Drink plenty of cold drinks, especially when exercising
- Take cool baths or showers
- Wear light-coloured, loose clothing
- Sprinkle water over skin or clothes
- Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm and avoid exercising in the hottest parts of the day
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol
- Avoid extreme exercise
- Look out for those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated – older people, those with underlying health conditions and those who live alone are particularly at risk
- Stay cool indoors – many of us will need to stay safe at home this summer so know how to keep your home cool
- Close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
- Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
- Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly and wear a wide brimmed hat, if you have to go out in the heat
Remember to keep an eye on children, the elderly and people with long-term health conditions (like diabetes or heart problems) because they are more at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. For more information or any queries, do not hesitate to speak to any member of our pharmacy team or visit the NHS website.