Keep cool

21-07-2021

With the Met Office issuing its first-ever amber extreme heat warning for large areas of the UK, it's important that we look after ourselves in this hot weather.

The warning comes as the forecast continues to signal for unusually high temperatures for the western area and continuing high night-time temperatures, creating potential impacts for health. [i]

The impacts of extreme heat can vary but can be particularly dangerous for vulnerable people such as those with underlying health conditions and the older population.

During the COVID–19 pandemic, it is imperative that everyone, particularly those that are vulnerable, know what actions to take to keep themselves safe. Here is some advice to help keep you cool in these extreme conditions:

Stay out of the heat

  • Keep out of the sun between 11 AM and 3 PM
  • If you must go out, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat
  • Avoid extreme physical exertion
  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes

Cool yourself down

  • Have plenty of cold drinks, and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks
  • Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with 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

Keep your home cool

  • Place a thermometer in your main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature.
  • Keep windows exposed to the sun closed during the day and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
  • Close curtains or blinds that receive morning or afternoon sun; however, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains as they often absorb heat.
  • Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment that might 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 degrees.

Look out for others

  • Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they can keep cool
  • Ensure that babies, children or older people are not left alone in stationary cars
  • Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave [ii]

Overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke

With the extreme heat, older or vulnerable people need to look out for signs of overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Overheating can cause muscle cramps in your arms, legs or stomach, mild confusion, weakness or sleep problems. If you have any of these, rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids. Seek medical advice if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Heat exhaustion is fatigue resulting from prolonged exposure to excessive heat. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, intense thirst, heavy sweating and a fast pulse. If you have any of these, find a cool place, loosen tight clothing, drink plenty of water or fruit juice, sponge yourself with cool water, or have a cool shower. If your symptoms don’t improve within 30 minutes, seek medical advice.

Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated – it can also develop suddenly and without warning. The symptoms include confusion, disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is life-threatening, so if you or someone else shows symptoms, call 999 immediately. [iii]


[i] Extreme heat warning issued for western areas - Met Office

[ii] Heatwave Plan for England - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[iii] advice for older adults staying safe in hot weather | Age UK