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Coping with a heatwave

Posted on 16/06/2014

This summer could see a period of prolonged hot weather, which is good news for most of us. However, for certain groups of people, the upturn in temperature can be especially dangerous. This includes very young children, the elderly and those with a serious illness.

The hot weather can cause health issues, and in particular can make breathing or heart problems worse. During a heatwave, there are more deaths than usual for the time of year.

Here we have some advice on things you can do to cope in a heatwave, either for yourself or to help an elderly or vulnerable relative or neighbour.

Keep drinking

Get bottled water and store it away, so that you always have some with you when it gets hot. Small bottles that you can put in a bag when you leave the house are perfect, or get a refillable bottle that you can keep topping up. Take frequent sips of water to ensure that you don't get dehydration, as this can become a very serious health problem.

Watch weather reports

Keep an eye on the latest news from The Met Office and in particular watch out for any weather warnings in your area. Warnings are issued in different levels, getting higher as the risk to your health increases, so know what to expect.

Keep your house cool

Where possible, keep your home as cool as possible. Close curtains so that the sun can't get in and heat up a room. Light-coloured curtains are best, as they won't absorb the heat as much.

Plan ahead

Make sure that you have enough food, drink and other essentials in the house before a heatwave hits so that you don't have to make unnecessary trips to the shop.

Stay indoors at peak times

The sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm, so if you can, make sure that you are indoors, or at least in the shade, between those hours.

Dress for the heat

Wear loose clothing in lighter colours to stay cool. Cover your skin as much as you can to ensure that you don't get sunburnt – for example a loose t-shirt with cotton trousers. Always wear a comfortable hat as well.

Know the symptoms: dehydration

Catch possible dehydration early. If you are feeling thirsty and lightheaded, are going to the toilet less, or passing dark-coloured urine, then you may be becoming dehydrated. Get somewhere cool immediately, and sip water. If you start to feel tired or confused, have a rapid heartbeat or low blood pressure, then seek medical assistance.

Know the symptoms: heatstroke

Heatstroke can quickly become serious for older people or those with serious illnesses and medical attention may be required fast. Signs to watch for include hot skin, heavy sweating, fatigue, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, a rapid heartbeat or confusion. You should get somewhere cool and drink some water while waiting for help.

The NHS has some very useful advice on heatwaves, vulnerable and elderly people, and the different threat levels and how they affect people on its website:

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