According to the NHS there are, on average, 2000 heat-related deaths in England each year and with the UK expected to face further heat waves, similar to those experienced over the last few days, its important to know how to keep yourself cool and to be aware of those who may be isolated and less able to care for themselves.
What are the risk factors and symptoms?
The main risks from a heatwave are dehydration, sunburn, heat exhaustion, or the more extreme heatstroke. The NHS has identified the following signs of heatstroke:
- A headache.
- Dizziness and confusion.
- Loss of appetite and feeling sick.
- Excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin.
- Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach.
- Fast breathing or pulse.
- A high temperature of 38C or above.
- Being very thirsty.
If anyone is showing signs of heatstroke call 999, as it’s a medical emergency.
You can alleviate the less serious heat exhaustion by moving to a cool place, either inside or under shade; lie down and slightly raise your feet; drink plenty of water and cool your skin with a sponge or spray – you should start to recover within 30 minutes, but monitor for signs of heatstroke and contact 111 for further advice.
How to stay cool
- Keep hydrated - older people are more at risk of dehydrating and overheating when its this hot outside.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Keep homes cool by closing curtains and not opening windows in rooms that face the sun. You can open windows to circulate air when its cooler.
- Take plenty of water with you when travelling.
- Stay in the shade - older people, in particular, should aim to stay indoors between 11am and 4pm. If you have to go outside apply a high factor sunscreen and wear a hat.
- Wear loose, lightweight clothing in light rather than dark colours.
- Avoid heated appliances, including the oven by opting for lighter meals.
It may seem appealing to be outside in the sunshine, but, when there are red and amber weather warnings in place, it’s important to know how to cope with the stifling heat and to look out for those who are classed as vulnerable, which includes older people.
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