With hot weather due to hit Leeds this week, the local NHS is reminding people how to stay safe and well during a Covid-19 summer.
Although most of us welcome the summer sun, high temperatures can be harmful, resulting in dehydration, heatstroke and sunburn. Those who are at higher risk due to COVID-19 may be particularly affected, so it’s especially important that people understand how to keep themselves and others safe during the hot weather.
Public Health England’s ‘beat the heat’ advice includes
- Drinking plenty of fluid particularly water, aiming for at least two litres and avoiding alcohol, caffeine or hot drinks
- Dressing appropriately and covering up, including wearing a hat and sunglasses
- Avoiding the heat as much as possible and limit going out during the hottest part of the day (11am – 3pm)
- Wearing sun screen with a minimum sun protection factor of SPF30
- Safely checking on any vulnerable neighbours including older people and young children, especially those who have an underlying health issue such as asthma or heart condition
- Finding ways to keep your home cool
- Calling NHS 111 if you fall ill or get injured but it’s not an emergency
- Further advice is available from nhs.uk/heatwave
The CCG is also sharing the Royal Lifesaving Society advice to anyone considering cooling off in open water such as rivers or reservoirs. Despite the heat, the temperature of open water will still be low, and those tempted to cool off with a swim may get into difficulties with cold water shock. If you are planning to go swimming, choose a safe place such as a lifeguarded beach.
Dr. Sarah Forbes, a local GP and Associate Medical Director for NHS Leeds CCG, said: “This week’s high temperatures could be quite uncomfortable for many people, especially the very young, old, and those who may be staying indoors because they’re shielding.
“Every year during hot weather, we see people becoming quite unwell and needing urgent medical care. But there are simple steps you can take to avoid this.
“It’s really important to drink plenty, particularly water, keep your home as cool as possible and avoid being out during the hottest part of the day. Even if you’re just in and out of your garden, make sure you cover up when the sun is hottest and apply plenty of sun cream, especially on children.
“If you do start to feel unwell and it’s not an emergency please contact NHS 111, where a trained advisor will help you access the most appropriate care. You can also get health advice and remedies from your local pharmacist, but please don’t go directly to your GP practice, pharmacy, or hospital if you think you have coronavirus. Always go through 111 first.”
For more summer health advice, visit our summer health page
How to cope in hot weather (Source: www.nhs.uk/heatwave)
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 and heatstroke
Who is 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 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
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke
Heat exhaustion is not usually serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If it turns into heatstroke it needs to be treated as an emergency.
The signs of heat exhaustion include:
- dizziness and confusion
- loss of appetite and feeling sick
- excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
- cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
- fast breathing or pulse
- temperature of 38C or above
- being very thirsty
The symptoms are often the same in adults and children, although children may become floppy and sleepy.
Call 999 if the person:
- is no better after 30 minutes
- feels hot and dry
- is not sweating even though they are too hot
- has a temperature that’s risen to 40C or above
- has rapid or shortness of breath
- is confused
- has a fit (seizure)
- loses consciousness
- is unresponsive
These can be signs of heatstroke.