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Heatwave health

Heatwave health

With a heatwave predicted to bring temperatures above 35C to parts of the UK this week, it's important to know how to manage your health in a heatwave. 


Most 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.

The safety message is to enjoy the hot weather but be sensible. Knowing how to keep cool during long periods of hot weather can help save lives.

Why is a heatwave a problem?

The main risks posed by a heatwave are:

  • Dehydration (not having enough water).
  • Overheating. Can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing.
  • Heat exhaustion.
  • Heatstroke. Can make people very ill and can sometimes be fatal.


Who is at risk?

The heat can affect anyone, but some people run a greater risk of serious harm. These include:

  • Older people.
  • 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 take illicit drugs.
  • People with mobility problems.
  • People who are physically active, like manual workers and sportsmen and women.

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.

  • 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 the day (11am – 3pm).
  • 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, loose fitting clothes, preferably cotton. If you will be outside for some time, take plenty of water with you.

Stay cool

  • 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, as much as possible.
  • Reduce heat from sunlight coming through the windows. Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn't possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metalic blinds and dark curtains can make them hotter)
  • Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. If it's safe, open them at night for ventilation when it's cooler.
  • Take cool showers or baths.

Drink regularly

  • Drink regularly even if you do not feel thirsty – water or fruit juice are best.
  • Try to avoid alcohol, tea and coffee. They make dehydration worse.
  • Eat as you normally would. Try to eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit, which contain water.

How do I know if someone needs help?

  • If someone feels unwell, get them somewhere cool to rest. Give them plenty of fluids to drink.
  • If symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, weakness, dizziness or cramps get worse or don't go away, seek medical help.

Seek advice if you have any concerns

Useful links:

NHS Choices

Met Office

NHS Live Well

Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 July 2019 09:32

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