Advice for staying cool in a heatwave
Most of us look forward to the warmer weather and feeling some sun on our faces. But it’s important to be prepared for hot weather as high temperatures can be dangerous to your health.
The sun and skin health
We’ve all caught the sun before, either on holiday or at home. You might enjoy a tan or deliberately use the sun cream a bit sparingly. But getting sunburnt can be serious, and increase your risk of skin cancer. Anyone can develop skin cancer, so it’s important to protect your skin, whatever your skin type.
Protecting your skin
- Use sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Apply it generously and top up at least every two hours. If you've been in water, reapply when you are dry.
- Apply sunscreen to any uncovered parts of your body. A hat will protect your head, face, ears and eyes.
- Choose sunglasses that have a CE mark, UV400 label or a statement that they offer 100 per cent UV (ultraviolet) protection.
- When the weather is hot, your skin may also feel drier than usual. Using moisturiser can help keep your skin healthy.
- If you have moles or brown patches on your skin, they usually remain harmless. But if they bleed, or change size, shape or colour, show them to your doctor without delay. For more information visit the Cancer Research UK website.
Sun exposure and vitamin D
Although it’s important to protect your skin, some direct exposure to the sun is essential for the production of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease and bone problems such as osteoporosis.
- There are some food sources of vitamin D – salmon, sardines and other oily fish, eggs and fortified spreads – but sunshine is the major source.
- Don’t let your skin burn, but try to go outside once or twice every day without sunscreen for short periods from March to October. The more of your skin that is exposed, the better your chance of making enough vitamin D.
- The Government recommends vitamin D supplements for some groups of the population, including people aged 65 and over.
- If you think you could be at risk of not getting enough vitamin D, particularly if you are housebound or cover your skin for cultural reasons, raise this with your doctor. Always speak to your doctor before starting to take a vitamin supplement or over-the-counter medicine on a daily basis.
Dehydration and overheating
It’s easy to become dehydrated or overheat when it’s hot outside.
How to avoid dehydration
- Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids. Aim to drink 6 – 8 glasses of liquid a day, and more if it’s hot.
- Eat a balanced diet to help your body replace any salt you lose by sweating.
Symptoms of overheating
Extreme heat and dry conditions can cause you to dehydrate and your body to overheat.
Watch out for certain signs – particularly for 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 and heatstroke
Heat exhaustion is fatigue resulting from prolonged exposure to excessive heat.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, intense thirst, heavy sweating and a fast pulse.
What to do
If you have any of these symptoms you must, if at all possible:
- find a cool place and loosen tight clothes
- drink plenty of water or fruit juice
- sponge yourself with cool water or have a cool shower.
Your symptoms should improve within 30 minutes. If you're feeling better but still have any concerns, call your doctor or NHS 111 for advice.
Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated – it can also develop suddenly and without warning.
Symptoms of heatstroke
The symptoms of heatstroke include:
- loss of consciousness.
What to do
Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition. If you or someone else shows symptoms:
- call 999 immediately, or 112 if you are in the European Union (you can call 112 from a mobile for free)
- if you have a community alarm, press the button on your pendant to call for help
- while waiting for the ambulance, follow the advice given for heat exhaustion but do not try to give fluids to anyone who is unconscious.