Heatwaves are extended periods of relative hot weather. Because of climate change, they are becoming more common and extreme in the UK.

The British Red Cross estimate 20% of homes in England are likely to overheat.

Plus, with Tripadvisor data revealing two-thirds of Brits plan to travel abroad this summer, it’s important to know how to protect your health. GP at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, Dr Bhavini Shah (GMC 7090158) shares her tips for keeping cool: 

LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor welcome you to republish this image of Dr Bhavini Shah in your coverage.

“The heat can seriously impact your physical health. Many people incorrectly think heat exhaustion and heatstroke are the same things. Heat stroke is arguably far more serious.”

Heat exhaustion

“Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses excess water, salt, and sugars through sweating. Heat exhaustion can be treated by having plenty to drink, keeping out of the sun, and taking steps to cool down.”

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

  • Headache
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Feeling sick
  • Sweating
  • Cramps in the arms, legs, and stomach
  • Fast pulse
  • High temperature
  • Feeling thirsty

Heat stroke

“Heat stroke is when the body’s temperature becomes dangerously high and is no longer able to cool itself. It can develop with little warning and can lead a person to become unresponsive.

“If you think someone might have heat stroke, you must dial 999. While awaiting medical help, you can help them by moving them to a cool place and wrapping them in a wet sheet or clothing.”

Symptoms of heat stroke

  • Confusion 
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Paler skin than normal

Some are more at risk

“Some people are particularly at risk from heatwaves. The extreme heat can be especially dangerous for elderly people, babies and children, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions.

“People who live in urban areas and on the top floors of buildings can also be especially vulnerable.”

  1. Slow down

“In general, avoid too much physical activity when it’s hot as this can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke. 

“If you can’t avoid strenuous outdoor activities like gardening, DIY and sports altogether, try to get them done in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.”

  1. Stay out of the sun 

“Avoid direct exposure to sun during peak hours of the day. Shade can reduce how hot you feel by more than 10°C. You can create shade inside your home by covering windows. 

“Remember, if your home is particularly warm, it may be cooler outside in the shade

or inside a public building (such as a local library or supermarket). Consider a visit to cool off.”

  1. Keep your home cool

“When it comes to keeping the temperature inside your home down, rather than trying to cool down the whole house, prioritise one or two rooms. When cooking, avoid using the oven or hob where possible as this will raise the internal temperature of your home. Turning off any electrical equipment that is not in use is also good practice. 

“While you should open the windows when the air feels cooler outside than inside (for example at night), you should also shut the windows during the hottest part of the day to keep the warm air out. You can create a breeze by opening different windows.”

  1. Drink plenty of fluids

“Dehydration is a risk in hot weather. Early warning signs include: feeling thirsty and lightheaded; a dry mouth; tiredness; having dark coloured, strong-smelling urine; passing urine less often than usual. If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to act quickly by drinking plenty of fluids.

“Against what you might assume, hot and cold drinks both work to maintain your core temperature. However, caffeine should be avoided. As well as water, isotonic sports drinks are ideal as they also replenish the lost salts and sugars.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend one cup each hour. If you’re struggling to drink enough, you can also raise your fluid intake by eating foods with high water or fluid content like strawberries, cucumber, lettuce, soups and stews.”

  1. Fans have their limits

“If the temperature reaches 40˚C, The WHO recommends against using electrical fans because at this temperature, fans will heat rather than cool the body. The British Red Cross goes further, saying fans should be turned off if temperatures hit 35˚C.

“Although not often a concern in the UK, this could be helpful travel advice for holidaymakers.”

  1. Wet your skin

“Heat escapes through the skin – the largest organ in the body. In hot weather, the more you can cool your skin down, the better. A cool shower is a good option, or wearing a wet T-shirt can be effective. Even putting your hands or feet in cold water can quickly cool you down.”

  1. Sleep downstairs

“Good sleep can feel impossible in hot weather. Heat rises so if your home is on more than one level, sleeping downstairs where it’s coolest may be a clever hack.” 

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