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Coping with a Heatwave

Written by: Editors

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How to look after yourself during a heatwave?

This week the Met Office issued an Amber weather warning for Brits to take care during this heatwave and advised people to stay out of the sun until Friday.

After a dark winter and a rainy spring, most people look forward to the sunnier weather of summer as a time they can enjoy. However, a true heatwave in which there is an unbroken sun, high daily temperatures, a muggy feeling of high pressure and little rainfall can take its toll. You will notice this in the garden when your lawn starts to turn yellowish.

If that is what a heatwave can do to plants, what are the implications of human health?


Anyone who has a condition which means they need to look after their body – for example, diabetics who need to control their condition through diet – must pay attention to their water intake. In fact, everyone should drink more to avoid dehydration during the higher temperatures and avoid doing so by consuming beverages like coffee.

Drink water or watery drinks, like squash or cordial, instead. Limit your alcohol intake since this can dehydrate you, as well. Eat a normal diet even if the sunny weather means that your appetite takes a dive.

How to protect your skin

Try to keep out of the sun during the hottest periods of the day. If you do head out, then you can help to keep cool by wearing a sun hat which will keep the worst of the sun’s rays off you. Seek a shady spot if you are outside for any length of time.

Of course, you can help to protect your skin by applying sunscreen but remember to keep your skin hydrated by continuing to drink water, too. At night, wear loose clothing and cover yourself with a single sheet rather than always crawling in underneath your usual duvet which will help you to rest better.

Finally, it is worth checking on the side-effects of any medication you may be taking. Some treatments can lead to a photo-sensitive effect and you will notice this listed under the potential side-effects given with your prescription. If you see that a course of drugs you are on means that you could be more sensitive to light, then take extra precautions to remain out of the sun. Polarising sunglasses are usually very helpful if you fall into this category.

Tips For Looking After Children and the Elderly During Hot Weather

Both children and elderly people can forget to drink enough fluid during hot weather. Don’t just offer water but check that it has been consumed in sufficient quantities.
If your family member suddenly feels dizzy or has a raging thirst that no amount of drinking will slake, it could be a sign of heat exhaustion so beware of it.


Encourage children and elderly people inside during the hottest part of the day. Avoid al fresco lunches and serve food indoors.
Don’t allow too many clothes to be worn. Long-sleeved shirts are ideal because they keep the sun off but try to encourage your family members to wear comfortable and loose clothing even if they might prefer what they usually wear.

Keep the inside of your home as cool as possible so it becomes a refuge from the heat. Draw your curtains or blinds and turn on your air-conditioning if you have it.

How to Spot the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

If you notice a darker than normal colour in urine or skin that has gone pale, then it may be that heat exhaustion has occurred because of dehydration. Keep an eye out for other symptoms, such as the unquenchable thirst, mentioned above.

Other signs of heat exhaustion include excessive fatigue, fainting, confusion, headaches and cramping. Chest pain can be associated with a faster than usual heart rate with heat exhaustion, too. Dizzy nausea that comes with diarrhoea or vomiting could also be down to exhaustion caused by too much exposure to the sun.

What to Do if Someone Needs Help?

It is possible to treat milder cases of heat exhaustion yourself. Simply by taking rest, getting out of the sun and drinking water is often enough to relieve the symptoms of heat exhaustion. You should also remove tight clothing and get the person who is suffering into a place where there is air movement over their body. Just switching a fan on can help.

A cool bath is also another good way of lowering the body’s core temperature. However, if symptoms persist or they are associated with a chest pain, then you should seek professional medical help. If you see no improvement after fifteen minutes or so of trying to treat heat exhaustion, then be prepared to treat it as an emergency.

Be prepared for a heatwave by avoiding the sun, drinking lots of water, applying sun protection and avoiding too much exertion. Look after vulnerable adults and children as they can be more susceptible to heat exhaustion than others and make sure you know what to do if you spot symptoms like chest pain, dizziness or sudden cramps.

Source: NHS, Met office

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