Heatwave: staying safe in hot weather
Most of us welcome hot weather, but when it's too hot for too long, there are health risks. In England, there are on average 2,000 heat related deaths every year. When hot weather hits this summer, make sure you know how to keep yourself and those around you safe.
Check on others
- Check on older people or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during hot weather.
Stay hydrated and cool yourself down
- Stay hydrated – have plenty of cold drinks, and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks
- Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a 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
- If you need to travel, ensure you take water with you.
- Avoid extreme physical exertion. If you can’t avoid strenuous outdoor activity, such as sport, DIY or gardening, keep it for cooler parts of the day – for example, in the early morning or evening.
Keeping the home cool
- Keep your environment cool: keeping your living space cool is especially important for children, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions or who can’t look after themselves
- Shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight and keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day. External shutters or shades, if you have them, are very effective, while internal blinds or curtains are less effective. Care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat
- If possible and safe, open windows at night if it feels cooler outside
- Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment – they generate heat
- During the hottest periods find the coolest part of your home or garden/outside or local green space to sit in. If going outdoors, use cool spaces considerately
- Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air
- Place a thermometer in your main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature
- If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping
- Electric fans may provide some relief, if temperatures are below 35°C.
On car journeys
- Ensure that babies, children, or older people are not left alone in parked cars, which can quickly overheat
- Animals die in hot cars; do not leave your pet alone in a vehicle, even for a short time.
Look out for the signs of heat-related harm
- If you feel dizzy, weak or have intense thirst and a headache, move to a cool place as soon as possible. Drink some water or diluted fruit juice to rehydrate. Avoid excess alcohol
- If you have painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms, or abdomen), rest immediately in a cool place and drink electrolyte drinks. Most people should start to recover within 30 mins and if not, you should seek medical help. Call 111 if you feel unusual symptoms, or if symptoms persist
- Call 999 if a person develops any signs of heatstroke as this is a medical emergency. You can read more about heat exhaustion and heatstroke on the NHS website
- Try to keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, when UV radiation is strongest.
- If you have to go out in the heat, wear UV sunglasses, preferably wraparound, to reduce UV exposure to the eyes. Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen of at least SPF15 with UVA protection and wear a hat. Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes. This should reduce the risk of sunburn.
If you or others 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.
If you have a health problem:
- Keep medicines below 25 °C or in the refrigerator (read the storage instructions on the packaging)
- seek medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.
Advice for staying safe around water
- Stop and think – spot the dangers. Don't jump or dive into open water; submerged objects such as rocks may not be visible and can cause serious injuries
- Stay together
- Never swim in open water when there are no life-guards present
- Be aware that there may be strong currents, even where the water surface appears calm
- Weirs, locks, pipes and sluices are especially dangerous
- Take note of warning signs, safety information or flags near the water's edge
- Water can be very cold even in summer, causing cramp and breathing difficulties – these can affect even the strongest swimmer
- Get out of the water as soon as you start to feel cold
- Keep away from the river's edge and closely supervise young children at all times
- Wear the recommended safety equipment for your activity, e.g. life jackets/helmets
- Alcohol may impair your ability and judgment; never go swimming under the influence of alcohol
- In an emergency, float
- Call 999 or 112 in an emergency.
Take steps to avoid wildfires
- Allow at least 6m spacing between tents and caravans and ensure they are away from parked cars to reduce the risk of fire spreading.
- Don’t smoke inside tents.
- Never use candles in or near a tent – torches are safer.
- If you must have an open fire it should be downwind, at least 10m from the tent or caravan.
- Clear dry vegetation, such as leaves and twigs and form a circle of earth around the fire
- Do not leave fires unattended
- Make sure that fires are fully extinguished after use
- If a fire should breakout call the fire and rescue service and give the exact location
- Never throw cigarette ends out of a car window – they could start a fire and ruin surrounding countryside
- Don’t leave bottles or glass in woodlands. Sunlight shining through glass can start a fire. Take them home or put them in a waste or recycling bin
Take steps to avoid fires from reflective objects
- Keep magnifying mirrors out of direct sunlight
- Never put glass ornaments or paperweights on windowsills or in direct sunlight
- Make sure shaving or vanity mirrors are not left on windowsills
- Be aware of objects in your home that may be exposed to direct sunlight
- Have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of your home
- Consider installing additional alarms in rooms with electrical appliances or sleeping areas
- Test your smoke alarms once a week
- In the event of a fire, get out, stay out and call 999.
Barbecue safely this summer
- Never leave a lit barbecue unattended
- Follow the safety instructions provided with disposable barbecues
- Never use a barbecue indoors
- Make sure your barbecue is well away from sheds, fences, trees, shrubs or garden waste
- Keep children, pets and garden games away from the cooking area
- After cooking, make sure the barbecue is cool before moving it
- Use enough charcoal to cover the base of the barbecue, but not more
- Empty ashes on to bare garden soil, not into dustbins or wheelie bins. If they’re hot, they can melt the plastic and cause a fire
- Enjoy yourself, but don’t drink too much alcohol if you are in charge of the barbecue
- Always keep a bucket of water, sand or a garden hose nearby for emergencies.