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LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF AND OTHERS DURING HOT WEATHER – THE LATEST ADVICE
Heat can be harmful to your health – key messages
1 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.
2 Those with heart, respiratory and serious health
problems are more at risk and the heat can make these conditions worse. Babies and young children are also especially at risk.
3 Many prescription medicines can reduce your
tolerance of heat. You should keep taking your
medicines, but take extra care to keep cool.
4 Danger symptoms to watch out for in hot weather
include: feeling faint and dizzy, short of breath,
5 Take immediate action if danger symptoms are
• Cool down as quickly as possible (see the advice on
• Do not take aspirin or paracetamol – this can make
• Seek further advice from NHS Direct, a doctor,
or ring 999 if the person has collapsed.
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 effects of heat. Below are some tips to keep yourself and others cool:
• Keep windows closed when the room is cooler
than it is outside. Open windows at night when the temperature outside has dropped.
• Reduce heat from sunlight coming through the
windows. External shading, like 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 materials.
• Have plenty of cold drinks, avoid excess alcohol,
• Have cool showers or baths, put a loose, cotton,
damp cloth or scarf on the back of the neck, spray or splash your face with cold water frequently to help keep your body cool.
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 about the home.
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
• 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
• People who misuse alcohol or take illicit drugs. • People with mobility problems. • People who are physically active, like manual
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.
Keep out of the heat
• If a heatwave 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
• If you can’t 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, loosefitting clothes, preferably cotton. If you will be outside for some time, take plenty of water with you.
• 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,
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 than
it is outside. Open them when the temperature inside rises, and at night for ventilation.
If you are worried about security, at least open windows on the first floor and above.
• Indoor and outdoor plants will help keep your
home cool due to evaporation and the shading from trees and bushes.
Drink regularly even if you do not feel thirsty –
• Have plenty of cold drinks, avoid excess alcohol,
• Eat light meals with a higher proportion of
vegetables. Try to eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit, which contain water.
Seek advice if you have any concerns
• Contact your doctor, a pharmacist or NHS Direct
if you are worried about your health during a heatwave, especially if you are taking medication, if you feel unwell or have any unusual symptoms.
• Watch for cramp in your arms, legs or stomach,
feelings of mild confusion, weakness or problems sleeping.
• If you have these symptoms, rest for several hours,
keep cool and drink water or fruit juice. Seek medical advice if they get worse or don’t go away.
Remember, heatstroke can kill. It can develop very suddenly, and rapidly lead to unconsciousness. If you suspect someone has heatstroke, call 999 immediately.
• If anyone you know is likely to be at risk during a
heatwave (see the list on page 4), help them get the advice and support they need. Older people living on their own should be visited daily to check they are OK.
While waiting for the ambulance
• If possible, move the person somewhere cooler. • Increase ventilation by opening windows or using
• Cool them down as quickly as possibly by
loosening their clothes, sprinkling them with cold water or wrapping them in a damp sheet.
• If they are conscious, give them water or fruit juice
• Do not give them aspirin or paracetamol.
If you want more information about hot weather and your health please visit If you are concerned about your health or somebody you care for, please contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47, your local pharmacist or GP.
• Check the weather forecast and any high
• For further information about how to protect your
health during a heatwave visit NHS Choices at
• Contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
or NHS Choices
at advice about heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
• You can get advice on protecting your skin during
hot weather from the Cancer Research UK SunSmart campaign website at
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The text of this document may be reproduced without formal permission or charge for personal or in house use.
If you require further copies of this title, visit quote 301454/Heatwave
Tel: 0300 123 1002 Minicom: 0300 123 1003 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday)
can also be made available on request in Braille, on audiocassette tape, on disk and in large print.
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