Although most of us welcome the summer sun, high temperatures can be harmful to your health. Take a look at our tips on how to stay safe in hot weather, including how to keep your home cool.
The heat can affect anyone, but some people run a greater risk of serious harm. Remember to think of those who may be more at risk from the effects of heat, including:
- older people, especially those over 75
- babies and young children
- people with a serious chronic condition, particularly dementia, heart, breathing or mobility problems
- people on certain medications
What you can do
Stay out of the heat, cool yourself down, keep your environment cool or find somewhere else that is cool.
Look out for neighbours, family or friends who may be isolated and unable to care for themselves; make sure they are able to keep cool during a heatwave.
Get medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.
Make sure medicines are stored below 25°C or in the fridge (read the storage instructions on the packaging).
Carry on taking all prescribed medicines unless advised not to by a medical professional. But be aware that some prescription medicines can reduce your tolerance of heat.
Listen to the weather forecast
Knowing the forecast can help you plan ahead and adapt as necessary.
Heatwaves may affect other services, such as power and water supplies, and transport.
Air pollution can become worse during periods of hot weather.
Listen to the news to be aware of when a heatwave has been forecast and how long it is likely to last.
Check the weather forecast and any high temperature health warnings.
Plan ahead to avoid the heat
It is best to avoid getting too hot in the first place.
If you plan ahead you can avoid situations where you become dangerously hot.
Avoid being out in the sun during the hottest part of the day (around midday) and plan your day to avoid heavy activity during extreme heat.
Bring everything you will need with you, such as a bottle of water, sun cream and a hat.
If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen, and wear a hat and light clothing.
Be prepared, as heatwaves can affect transport services and you might need extra water.
Drink plenty of fluids
Everyone is at risk of dehydration in hot temperatures, but babies, children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable.
Fluid requirements are higher than normal in hot weather and after strenuous activity, to replace fluids lost through sweating.
Drink plenty of fluids: water, lower fat milks and tea and coffee are good options.
Look out for signs of dehydration such as increased thirst, a dry mouth, dark urine, and urinating infrequently or small amounts.
If you are fasting for Ramadan during a heat wave, it is important to drink before dawn and follow the advice here to keep cool and prevent dehydration. If you become dehydrated you should break the fast in order to re-hydrate, this can be compensated by fasting at a later date.
Dress appropriately for the weather
Dressing appropriately can protect you from the sun’s radiation and keep you cool to prevent heat related illness.
Children are particularly at risk of skin damage from the sun.
If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade and wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light coloured cotton clothes.
Wear suitable head wear, such as a wide-brimmed hat, to reduce exposure to the face, eyes, head and neck.
When exposed to direct sunlight, cover your skin with clothing giving good protection. At home wear as little clothing as necessary.
Apply sunblock, or broad-spectrum sunscreens, with high sun protection factor (SPF) of at least SPF 15 with UVA protection regularly to exposed skin.
Slow down when it’s hot
Heavy activity can make you prone to heat related illnesses.
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.
Children should not take part in vigorous physical activity on very hot days, such as when temperatures are above 30°C.
Know how to keep your home cool
Why this is important
Even during a relatively cool summer, 1 in 5 homes are likely to overheat.
For many people, this makes life uncomfortable and sleeping difficult.
Some people are particularly vulnerable to heat and for them a hot home can worsen existing health conditions, or even kill.
What you can do
- 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.
- Metallic blinds and dark curtains can make a room hotter.
- Open windows when the air feels cooler outside than inside, for example, at night. Try to get air flowing through your home, if possible.
- Turn off the central heating.
- Turn off lights and electrical equipment that aren’t in use.
- Use electric fans if the temperature is below 35°C, but do not aim the fan directly at the body and ensure you stay hydrated with regular drinks.
- Check that fridges, freezers and fans are working properly.
- If insulating your home, ask for advice about avoiding overheating in summer.
- Consider the risk of overheating if buying or renting, particularly for vulnerable people.
- If you have concerns about an uncomfortably hot home that is affecting your health or someone else’s health, seek medical advice.
- Get help from the environmental health department within your local authority; they can do a home hazard assessment.
Go indoors or outdoors, whichever feels cooler
It is important for your health to avoid getting hot in the first place.
If you do get hot, it is important to give your body a break from the heat.
It may be cooler outside in the shade than it is inside an overheated building.
Take a break from the heat by moving to a cooler part of your home (especially for sleeping).
Find some shaded green space or have a cool bath or shower.
Remember lots of public buildings (such as places of worship, local libraries or supermarkets) can be cool in summer; consider a visit as a way of cooling down.