Many of us look forward to warmer weather in the summer months, but when it’s hot for longer periods – or we face more extreme temperatures, it can pose a risk to our health. Read our top tips for keeping healthy and well this summer.
Dehydration is one of the main health risks during hot weather. Dehydration means your body loses more fluids than you take in. If it’s not treated, it can get worse and become a serious problem.
Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include:
- feeling thirsty
- dark yellow and strong-smelling pee
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- feeling tired
- a dry mouth, lips and eyes
- peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day
To reduce the risk of dehydration:
- Drink fluids when you feel any dehydration symptoms.
- If you find it hard to drink because you feel sick or have been sick, start with small sips and then gradually drink more.
- You can use a spoon to make it easier for your child to swallow the fluids.
- You should drink enough during the day so your pee is a pale clear colour.
- Drink when there's a higher risk of dehydrating - for example, if you're vomiting, sweating or you have diarrhoea
If you're being sick or have diarrhoea and are losing too much fluid, you need to put back the sugar, salts and minerals that your body has lost. Your pharmacist can recommend oral rehydration sachets. These are powders that you mix with water and then drink. Ask your pharmacist which ones are right for you or your child.
Stay Protected from the Sun
Spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest. In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm from March to October.
Make sure you:
- spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm
- never burn
- cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
- take extra care with children
- use at least factor 30 sunscreen
Bugs and Bites
Most insect bites and stings are not serious and will get better within a few hours or days, but occasionally they can become infected, cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Bugs that bite or sting include wasps, hornets, bees, horseflies, ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs, spiders and midges.
To treat an insect bite or sting:
- remove the sting or tick if it's still in the skin
- wash the affected area with soap and water
- apply a cold compress (such as a flannel or cloth cooled with cold water) or an ice pack to any swelling for at least 10 minutes
- raise or elevate the affected area if possible, as this can help reduce swelling
- avoid scratching the area, to reduce the risk of infection
- avoid traditional home remedies, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, as they're unlikely to help
Ask your pharmacist about medicines that can help, such as painkillers, creams for itching and antihistamines. If your symptoms do not start to improve within a few days or are getting worse, call NHS 111 who can advise what to do and refer you to the most relevant service.
The main risks posed by a heatwave are:
- not having enough water (dehydration)
- overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing
- heat exhaustion and heatstroke
Who's most at risk?
A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:
- older people, especially those over 75
- babies and young children
- people with a serious long-term 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 medicines, including those that affect sweating and temperature control
- people who are physically active – for example, labourers or those doing sports
Tips for coping in hot weather:
- Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day, and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
- Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
- Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
- Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this is not possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
- If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping.
- Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol. Water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee are good options.
- If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf.
- Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.