Don’t let your summer be ruined by sunstroke, dehydration or hay fever. Advice on avoiding the worst of their effects is all covered in our guide to summer health.
The main risks posed by a heatwave are:
- not drinking enough water (dehydration)
- overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing
- heat exhaustion and heatstroke
Who’s most at risk?
A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:
- older people – especially those over 75 and female
- those who live on their own or in a care home
- people who have a serious or long-term illness including heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease or some mental health conditions
- people who are on multiple medicines that may make them more likely to be badly affected by hot weather
- those who may find it hard to keep cool – babies and the very young, the bed bound, those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer’s disease
- people who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places – those who live in a top-floor flat, the homeless or those whose jobs are outside
Heatwaves and very hot weather
There are some easy ways to stay safe when the heat arrives.
Stay out of the heat
- Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
- If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf
- Avoid extreme physical exertion.
- Wear light, loose‐fitting cotton clothes
- Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals.
Cool yourself down:
- have plenty of cold drinks, and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.
- eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high-water content.
- take a cool shower, bath or body wash.
- sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.
Keeping your environment cool.
- Keeping your living space cool is especially important for infants, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions or who can’t look after themselves.
- Place a thermometer in your main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature
- Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day, and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped
- Close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors.
- Drink plenty of water as sugary, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks can make you dehydrated.
- Turn off non‐essential lights and electrical equipment – they generate heat.
- Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air.
- If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping.
- Electric fans may provide some relief, if temperatures are below 35°C.
For more tips on coping in hot weather visit nhs.uk
Be safe when swimming in open waters
Taking a dip in open waters and going swimming are great ways to cool down, but please be aware of the dangers of open water. Never swim alone and never leave children unattended around water. For more advice click the link below for some summer water safety advice from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.Summer Water Safety Advice
We all know sunscreen is important but using the right one can be a little confusing. The NHS’s general advice is a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to protect against UVB and at least four-star UVA protection. Of course, the best protection from the sun is staying out of it at the hottest parts of the day, from 11am to 3pm.
For more sun safety tips visit nhs.uk
Everyone is at risk of dehydration in hot temperatures which is why it’s always important to keep hydrated, but during hot weather it’s even more important to drink plenty of fluids like water – especially for the elderly or if you have a health condition such as diabetes.
For those reluctant to drink water, why not try homemade ice lollies made with watered-down fruit juice or squash, or adding fruits such as lemons and limes to your bottled water?
Although you may not feel particularly hungry in the heat, don’t stop eating. Perhaps try to have smaller, more frequent light meals and incorporate lots of fruits and salad which are full of water and will help hydrate you.
Hay fever can be miserable for so many people as the different blossoms and allergies run through the whole summer.
There’s currently no cure for hay fever and you unfortunately cannot prevent it. However, you can do things to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high including:
- putting Petroleum Jelly around your nostrils to trap pollen,
- wearing wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes,
- showering and change your clothes after you’ve been outside to wash pollen off.
For more advice on managing hay fever symptoms visit allergy.uk.org
Bugs and bites
Like sunburn and sand between your toes, insects and bites are a pretty unpleasant part of summer. Most insect bites and stings are not serious and will get better within a few hours or days. There’s lots of help available from nhs.uk and you can also buy creams for itching and antihistamines from your pharmacy to have at home in case you need them.
Sprains and strains
When the weather is nice it is the perfect opportunity to put down the TV remote and head outdoors for some fun and games. Being active is good for your overall wellbeing. It builds confidence, social skills and improves concentration and learning. It also helps us maintain a healthy weight and aids sleep.
However, with being active and playing sports there is more risk of sprains and strains from tripping and falling. Most minor sprains and strains are relatively minor and can be treated at home with self-care techniques, such as paracetamol or PRICE therapy.
PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation:
- Protection – protect the affected area from further injury – for example, by using a support.
- Rest – avoid exercise and reduce your daily physical activity. Using crutches or a walking stick may help if you can’t put weight on your ankle or knee. A sling may help if you’ve injured your shoulder.
- Ice – apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every two to three hours. A bag of frozen peas, or similar, will work well. Wrap the ice pack in a towel so that it doesn’t directly touch your skin and cause an ice burn.
- Compression – use elastic compression bandages during the day to limit swelling.
- Elevation – keep the injured body part raised above the level of your heart whenever possible. This may also help reduce swelling.
Be BBQ safe
Barbeques and eating outside are one of summer’s greatest pleasure but every year people fall ill to food poisoning from barbecues which could be easily prevented. Before serving meat (burgers, sausages, kebabs, chicken and pork) that you have cooked on the barbecue, always check that:
- the meat is steaming hot throughout,
- there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part, and
- meat juices run clear.
- Consider cooking all chicken and pork in the oven first, then giving it a final finish on your barbecue.
- Don’t mix utensils used to prepare raw and ready-to-eat dishes.
- Never reuse a marinade used on raw meat, unless you give it a thorough cook first.
- Ensure you wash your hands after handling raw meat or visiting the toilet.
Barbeque fire safety
Every year the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service are called to a number of fires that are started by using a barbecue. Barbeques can be dangerous if not handled responsibly, so it’s important to keep safety in mind, especially when young children and pets are around. Click the below link for more advice on outdoor fire safety.Barbeque fire safety advice
- During extreme hot weather you should be prepared for travel disruption. You should only travel if it is essential. If you do need to travel, make sure you have plenty of water with you and perhaps a handheld fan. Follow Essex Travel on Twitter for updates.
- The heat may cause power cuts. In the event of a power cut, report it to UK Power Networks by calling 0800 31 63 105 or 105.