How to stay safe in a heatwave

Updated on 30 July 2018

Hot weather can make for a great summer but when temperatures are high for long periods this can pose a serious threat to people’s health. It’s important to know how to stay safe during a heatwave.

The Met Office and your local weather forecasts will provide warnings when we are expecting a heatwave, usually between 1 June and 15 September every year. The Met Office will issue an alert when the average temperature is forecast to be 30C or above during the day and 15C or above overnight over 2 or 3 days. The alert can be Level 1, 2, 3 or 4 - you should be aware of what precautions you need to take to stay safe and well for all of these alerts.

Visit the Met Office website for information on heatwave alerts.

What problems can a heatwave cause?

The main health risks posed by a heatwave are:

  • Dehydration – when your body isn’t taking in enough water
  • Overheating – when your body struggles to cool itself down
  • Heat exhaustion and heatstroke – these can be serious health problems which may need medical attention
  • Sunburn – UV rays from the sun can damage your skin and cause burns

Severe heatwaves can also have an impact on day to day life. Water shortages, power cuts and disruption to travel can all occur during a severe heatwave. Hot weather can cause large storms which can also impact services. You should be aware of the potential for disruption and ensure you are looking after your health and the health of those around you during this time.

Who is most at risk during a heatwave?

A heatwave can affect anyone but those who are vulnerable are most at risk. This includes:

  • Older people, especially those over 75
  • Babies and young children
  • People with a serious chronic condition, especially heart or breathing problems
  • People with serious mental health problems
  • People with mobility problems like Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke
  • People on medication that can affect temperature control and sweating
  • People who misuse alcohol and drugs
  • People who are physically active or who work outside

If you are one of these vulnerable people or you know someone who is vulnerable make sure you are aware ahead of time how to stay safe and well.

What can I do to stay safe in hot weather?

  • The hottest part of the day is 11am – 3pm, avoid going outside at this time
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and diluted fruit juice. Avoid caffeine, alcohol or anything high in sugar
  • Have cool baths or showers
  • Wear loose, light fitting clothing
  • Cover up when you go outside, where a hat and sunglasses
  • Keep rooms cool by using shades or light coloured curtains to keep the heat out
  • Wear plenty of sunscreen when you go outside and reapply regularly
  • Make sure you have enough food, water and medical supplies ahead of time

If you need medical attention speak to your GP or contact NHS 111 (call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk).

If you or someone else shows symptoms of:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Intense thirst
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps which get worse or don’t go away

seek medical help and make sure you are somewhere cool with plenty of fluids to drink.

Take a look at the Vale of York CCG’s self-care guides for help and advice on common summer illnesses and ailments direct from local GPs and pharmacists.

Remember:

  • Avoid the sun in the hottest part of the day
  • Drink plenty of fluid
  • Stay cool
  • Check vulnerable people are coping with the heat

For more information visit:

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/temperature/heatwave

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/heat-health/#?tab=heatHealth

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/heatwave-how-to-cope-in-hot-weather/