During periods of extreme heat there is a link between the hot weather and a higher death rate particularly those over the age of 75 years and those with certain medical conditions. The main causes of illness and death during a heatwave are respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. There are sensible steps that can be taken to keep yourself cool during the summer months.
Are you at risk?
Older age - women over 75 years old are more at risk than older men.
Chronic and severe illness including: heart conditions, diabetes, respiratory or renal conditions, Parkinson's disease or severe mental illness; medications that affect renal function and the body's ability to sweat
Inability to adapt behaviour to keep cool e.g. having Alzheimers, a disability, or being bed bound.
Watch out for the danger signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke:
Headaches and dizziness
Nausea and vomiting
Muscle weakness or cramps
Pale skin and a high temperature
Hot, dry, red skin
Convulsions and loss of consciousness
What you can do:
Listen to the weather forecast so you know if hot weather is on the way.
Keep out of the heat especially between 11am and 3pm which is the hottest part of the day.
Stay in the coolest rooms of your home as much as possible.
Wear loose fitting cotton clothing.
Splashing your face and back of your neck with cool water will help keep you cool.
Keep curtains closed.
Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. Open them when the temperature outside cools down.
Drink plenty of fluids especially water and fruit juice. Try and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol.
Eat normally but try and include cold foods in your diet such as salad or fruit to increase your water intake.
Call 999 if you suspect someone has heatstroke. Whilst waiting for the ambulance, try to cool them down and if conscious encourage them to drink fluids. Do not give aspirin or paracetamol.
Seek Advice if you have any concerns about your health during a heatwave contact your doctor, especially if you are taking medication, have unusual symptoms or if you feel unwell.
If you have symptoms you should rest and drink plenty of water or fruit juice. Seek medical advice if things don't improve or get worse.
Contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk(this link will open in a new window) for advice about heat exhaustion and heat stroke.