We all love the summer, but extreme temperatures are dangerous especially as us Brit’s aren’t used to long periods of dry weather, or hot sunny days!
“There is considerable evidence that heatwaves are dangerous and can kill,” says Graham Bickler of Public Health England. In August 2003, temperatures hit 38ºC (101ºF) during a nine-day heat wave, the highest recorded in the UK. “In the 2003 heat wave, there were 2,000 to 3,000 excess deaths [more than usual] in England. Across Europe, there were around 30,000 excess deaths.”
However, the heat and bright sunlight can also impair concentration levels and reduce your vision, making driving much more hazardous to both yourself and other road users. Stay alert, keep hydrated and take your time at junctions – look out for cyclists and bikers, pedestrians and the elderly.
We at BASICS North West have pulled together a quick guide to staying cool during the summer, and some warning signs to look out for.
The main problems seen during periods of high temperatures are:
- dehydration – headache, dizziness, weakness, dry mouth/tongue, palpitations, increased thirst.
- heat exhaustion – confusion, dizziness, fatigue, headache, dark coloured urine, abdominal/muscle cramps, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea.
- heat stroke – confusion, dizziness, fatigue, headache, dark coloured urine, abdominal/muscle cramps, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very similar and the exhaustion normally precipitates the heat stroke. Heat stroke can be life threatening and needs to be treated immediately, lie the person down and fan them after you have removed excess clothing and damped them down in cool flannels. Get them to drink plenty of fluids. If the person hasn’t started to recover after thirty minutes you need to ring 999 and place the patient into the recovery position.
With these problems certain individuals are at a greater risk than others:
- 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
Advice for everyone to follow, ten simple steps that will help you and your friends cope with the heat.
- 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 alcohol as this will further dehydrate the body.
- Stay tuned to the weather forecast on the radio or TV, or on 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.
The Met Office regularly review the current situation and the forecast conditions and publish health alerts if a heat wave is to be expected, you can find out more about the Public Health England Heat wave Plan here (PDF, 1.19MB).