EXTREME HEAT: Be Prepared…

Most of us welcome hot weather, but when it’s too hot for too long there are health risks. As it has been extremely hot this summer, make sure the hot weather doesn’t harm you or anyone you know. The very young, the elderly and the seriously ill are the groups who are particularly at risk of health problems when the weather is very hot. In particular, very hot weather can make heart and breathing problems worse. When heat becomes a problem With the average temperature of 35°C by day and 25°C overnight it’s not surprising we all feel hot and bothered. These temperatures can have a significant effect on people’s health.

Why is a too much heat a problem? The main risks posed by a heatwave are:

• Dehydration (not having enough water).

• Overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who have problems with their heart or breathing.

• Heat exhaustion.

• Heatstroke. Who is most at risk? Heat 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. Tips for coping in hot weather 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 during the hottest part of the day.

• Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows.)

• 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.

•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. How do I know if someone needs help?

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