Hot weather is something many people look forward to every year and go out and enjoy. But it’s worth remembering that sunny spells can pose health risks for some people. It’s important to protect yourself from too much sun or heat, to carry water when travelling and to think of those, such as young children or older people, who may feel the heat more acutely than others. Much of the advice on beating the heat is common sense, but now the hot weather has arrived, it is a really good time to think about what you can do to protect yourself and your family and friends from heat.
For some people, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions and those with young children, the summer heat can bring real health risks. That’s why Public Health England (PHE) is urging everyone to keep an eye on those you know who may be at risk this summer. If you’re able, ask if your friends, family or neighbours need any support.
PHE’s advice on the top ways for staying safe when the heat arrives are to:
- Keep out of the sun between 11.00am and 3.00pm
- Avoid extreme physical exertion. If you can’t avoid strenuous outdoor activity, such as sport, DIY or gardening, keep it for cooler parts of the day – for example, in the early morning or evening
- Have plenty of cold drinks, and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine or drinks high in sugar. If drinking fruit juice, dilute it with water. Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with high water content
- When travelling ensure you take water with you
- Look out for others: Keep an eye on isolated, older people, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool. Check on older people or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during hot weather. Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is unwell or further help is needed
- Children should not take part in vigorous physical activity on very hot days, such as when temperatures are above 30°C
- Ensure that babies, children or older people are not left alone in stationary cars
- Keep your environment cool: keeping your living space cool is especially important for infants, older people or those with long-term health conditions or anyone who cannot look after themselves
- Shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight and keep windows that are exposed to the sun, closed during the day. External shutters or shades are very effective, while internal blinds or curtains are less effective. However, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat – consider placing reflective material between them and the window space
- Open windows at night if it feels cooler outside, although be aware of security issues - especially in ground floor rooms. Close curtains that receive morning or afternoon sun
- Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment – they generate heat
- Electric fans may provide some relief, if temperatures are below 35°C
- Seek medical advice if you are suffering from a long-term medical condition or taking multiple medications and have unusual symptoms
- If you or others feel unwell, seek medical advice
- If you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and headache, move to a cool place as soon as possible. Drink some water or diluted fruit juice to rehydrate, avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee.
- If you have painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen, for example after sustained exercise during very hot weather), rest immediately in a cool place and drink electrolyte drinks. We say that most people should start to recover within 30mins and if not, they should seek medical help. Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms, or if symptoms persist
- If you have to go out in the heat, wear UV sunglasses, preferably wraparound, to reduce UV exposure to the eyes, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen of at least SPF15 with UVA protection and wear a hat. Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes. This should minimise the risk of sunburn
The following links provide a range of useful information on coping in hot weather:
The Met Office website has up to date weather forecasts. www.metoffice.gov.uk
The DEFRA Daily Air Quality Information website uk-air.defra.gov.uk contains information on both air pollution and PHE’s real-time UV measurement data https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/data/uv-index-graphs
For information on reducing the risk of dehydration see NHS Choices.
Bites and stings
See NHS Choices for information about dealing with insect bites and stings.
See NHS Choices for information on preventing and treating sunburn.