What should you do?
Mostly, it’s a matter of common sense. Listen to your local weather forecast so you know if a heatwave is on the way. Plan ahead to reduce the risk of ill health from the heat. Visit the Met Office website for local forecasts (opens in a new window).
Top tips for keeping cool
It is best for your health to avoid getting too hot in the first place. Remember to think of those who may be more at risk the young, the old and the vulnerable. Below are some tips to keep yourself and others cool and what to do if someone feels unwell.
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 sun screen and wear a hat and light scarf
- 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 environment cool
- place a thermometer in your living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature
- keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day
- open windows at night when the temperature has dropped
- close curtains that receive morning or afternoon sun; however, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat – consider replacing or putting reflective material in-between them and the window space
- 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 fan may provide some relief, if temperatures are above 35°C
- consider putting up external shading outside windows
- use pale, reflective external paints
- have your loft and cavity walls insulated – this keeps the heat in when it is cold and out when it is hot
- grow trees and leafy plans near windows to act as natural air-conditioners
Latest pollution levels and the air quality forecast can be found on the UK-Air website (Defra) (opens in a new window).
Look out for others
- keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool
- ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars
- check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave
- be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is unwell or further help is needed
If you have a health problem
- keep medicines below 25°C or in the refrigerator 9read the storage instructions on the packaging)
- seek medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications
If you or other feel unwell
- try to get help if you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and headache; move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature
- drink some water or fruit juice to rehydrate
- rest immediately in a cool place if you have painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen, in many cases after sustained exercise during very hot weather), and drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes
- medical attention is needed if heat cramps last more than one hour
- consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist
Heat health advice during Ramadan
If you start to feel unwell, disoriented or confused, or collapse or faint, advice is to stop fasting and have a drink of water or other fluid. This is especially important for older adults, those with poorly controlled medical conditions such as low/high blood pressure, diabetes and those who are receiving dialysis treatment.
The Muslim Council of Britain has confirmed that breaking fast in such conditions is allowable under Islamic law. Also make sure to check on others in the community who may be at greater risk and keep an eye on children to ensure they are having a safe and healthy Ramadan.
Guidance has been produced to help ensure that members of the Muslim community have a safe and healthy Ramadan – Ramadan Health Guide: A guide to healthy fasting produced in association with the NHS with further information available on NHS Choices – Healthy Ramadan (opens in a new window).