Keeping cool in hot weather
Hot weather can cause heat exhaustion in people and animals, and bacteria on food and rubbish develop more quickly in the heat.
When it is too hot for too long there are health risks, especially for the very young, the elderly and the seriously ill.
Why is a heatwave a problem?
The main risks posed by a heatwave are:
- dehydration (not having enough water)
- overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing
- heat exhaustion
Who is most at risk?
A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people in extreme heat are:
- older people, especially those over 75
- babies and young children
- people with a serious chronic condition, especially heart or breathing problems
- people with mobility problems, for example people with Parkinson's disease or who have had a stroke
- people with serious mental health problems
- people on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control
- people who misuse alcohol or drugs
- people who are physically active, for example labourers or those doing sports.
Tips for coping
At home, you can keep cool and reduce the risk of heat exhaustion by:
- stocking up on supplies like medicines, food and non-alcoholic drinks, so you won't have to go out in the heat
- organising your day to avoid being outside during the hottest time (11am to 3pm), if possible
- doing strenuous outdoor activities, like DIY or gardening, during cooler parts of the day, like early morning
- wearing a hat and light, loose-fitting clothing, taking plenty of water with you and keeping in the shade if you have to go out
- taking cold showers or baths and splashing yourself often with cold water
- drinking plenty of fluids, like juice or water - avoid coffee and alcohol.
More information on preparing for hot weather, heat stroke and dehydration can be found on the NHS Choices website.
When it is too hot for too long there are health risks, especially for the very young, the elderly and the seriously ill. Very hot weather can make heart and breathing problems worse.
This page was last updated on 11-Jan-2013.