Many of us enjoy sunny weather, but extreme heat can seriously damage your health. During a heatwave, when temperatures stay really high day after day, it can sometimes be fatal.
What are the risks?
In a severe heatwave you may get dehydrated and your body may overheat. If you already have a heart or respiratory problem, this may make your symptoms worse. Additionally, it can cause heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Keeping yourself cool will reduce the risk of illness. If you start to feel unwell, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- nausea and vomiting
- muscle weakness or cramps
- pale skin
- high temperature.
You should move somewhere cool and drink plenty of water or fruit juice. If you can, take a lukewarm shower, or sponge yourself down with cold water.
Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated, but it can also occur suddenly and without warning. Symptoms include:
- an intense thirst
- hot, red and dry skin
- a sudden rise in temperature
- loss of consciousness.
Heatstroke can result in irreversible damage to your brain and body, and if left untreated it can cause death.
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 young 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 drugs
- people with mobility problems
- people who are physically active, like manual workers and athletes.
What should you do?
Mostly it's a matter of common sense. Listen to your local weather forecast so you know if a heatwave is on the way. Plan ahead to reduce the risk of ill health from the heat.
Tips for coping in hot weather:
- stay out of the sun between 11am – 3pm
- use light-coloured blinds on windows
- keep windows closed during the day, but open them at night when it’s cooler
- wear light and loose-fitting clothes in natural fabrics
- apply sunscreen and wear a hat when you go out
- move into a cooler room for sleeping (if possible)
- have cool baths and showers or splash yourself with cold water
- drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids
- check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who might need help.
For more information and advice, look at the guidance documents in the Downloads section.