How to cope in a heatwave

This year has seen record high temperatures, not just in the UK but in many other parts of the world. And as our climate changes, we may have more frequent and intense hot spells in the summers to come.

But while most of us welcome the warmer weather, when it gets really hot your health can be affected. According to Public Health England (PHE), some people struggle more than others in high temperatures, including the over-65s, young children and those with heart and lung conditions.

High temperatures that last for more than a day or two can be really uncomfortable and pose a significant risk to health, says PHE’s Dr Thomas Waite.

“The best thing to do is avoid the sun during the hottest parts of the day, carry water with you when travelling and if going out to large events, think what you can do stay cool,” he says. “It’s also worth remembering to think about keeping homes cool as this can aid sleeping at night and give the body time to recover from the heat of the day.”

PHE’s top tips for staying safe in the heat include the following:

  • Look out for others, especially older people, young children and babies and those with underlying health conditions.
  • 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 more dehydrated.
  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals.
  • Try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm.
  • Take care and follow local safety advice if you are going into the water to cool down.
  • Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat, if you have to go out in the heat.
  • Avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day.
  • Wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes.

If you take any medicines, make sure they are stored below 25C or in the fridge (read the storage instructions on the packaging). Also carry on taking all prescribed medicines unless your GP advises you not to. Be aware, however, that some prescription medicines can reduce your tolerance to heat – have a word with your local Careway pharmacist if you need more information on any aspect of your medicines.

Stay cooler at home

Many of us may stay indoors to avoid the heat when the temperature is high. But some homes overheat during heatwave conditions too. According to PHE one in five homes is likely to overheat even during a relatively cool summer, which can make life uncomfortable and sleeping difficult for those living in them.

Here’s the latest advice from PHE and the NHS on what you should do to keep your home as cool as possible:

  • Shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight: external shutters or shades are very effective, while internal blinds or curtains are less effective but cheaper and easier to install.
  • Take a break from the heat by moving to a cooler part of the house (especially for sleeping).
  • Remember that it may be cooler outside in the shade or in a public building (such as places of worship, local libraries or supermarkets); consider a visit as a way of cooling down.
  • Open windows (when it is safe to do so) when the air feels cooler outside than inside, for example, at night. Try to get air flowing through the home.
  • Check that central heating is turned off.
  • Turn off lights and electrical equipment that isn’t in use.

For more information on how to stay safe in hot weather, call NHS 111 or visit NHS Choices. Your local Careway pharmacist can also give you lots of advice – find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.