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Keeping cool
Keeping cool
27 June 2011

Most of us welcome hot weather, but when it’s too hot for too long there are health risks, especially for the very young, the elderly and the seriously ill. In particular, very hot weather can make heart and breathing problems worse. 
 
The main risks posed by very hot weather are: 

  • dehydration (not having enough water)
  • overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing
  • heat exhaustion
  • heatstroke

A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people in extreme heat are:

  • older people, especially those over 75
  • babies and young children
  • people with a serious chronic condition, especially heart or breathing problems
  • people with mobility problems, for example people with Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke
  • people with serious mental health problems
  • people on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control
  • people who misuse alcohol or drugs
  • people who are physically active, for example labourers or those doing sports

The following advice applies to everybody when it comes to keeping cool and comfortable and reducing health risks:

  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. If it’s safe, open them for ventilation when it is cooler.
  • Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun and don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat.
  • 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 (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and fruit juice. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol.
  • Stay tuned to the weather forecast on the radio or TV, or at the Met Office website.
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
  • Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool.
  • Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat if you go outdoors.
  • Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.

If you’re worried about yourself or a vulnerable neighbour, friend or relative, you can contact the local environmental health office at your local authority. Environmental health workers can visit a home to inspect it for hazards to health, including excess heat. Find your local authority on the Directgov website.  
 
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. 

For more information on heatwaves see NHS Choices website
 

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