Stay safe and well in the heatwave

With hot weather and tropical conditions due to hit Leeds this week, the local NHS is reminding people how to stay safe and well while reducing potential pressure on the health system.

NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has issued the advice in an effort to reduce the impact of weather-related conditions and injuries.

Last year, across one of the busiest days experienced by A&E departments across England was during the period of prolonged warm weather. This included people affected by dehydration, heat stroke and being overexposed to the sun when it’s at its strongest.

In an effort to address this, people are being advised to follow Public Health England’s Beat the Heat messages. This 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 limiting going out during the hottest part of the day (11am – 3pm)
  • Wearing sun screen with a minimum sun protection factor of SP15
  • Looking out for vulnerable neighbours including older people and young children especially those who have an underlying health issue such as asthma or heart condition
  • Following the weather updates and advice on keeping well
  • Finding ways to keep homes cool
  • Calling NHS 111 when 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 Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) 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.

Cold water shock can affect even the strongest swimmers, and every year hundreds of people get into difficulty or drown in open water at the coast and at inland waterways such as canals, rivers and reservoirs.

If you are planning to go swimming, choose a safe place such as a lido or lifeguarded beach. If you find yourself in trouble, remember to float first – fight your instinct to swim – control your breathing, then kick to the side.

Dr Gordon Sinclair, a local GP and Clinical Chair for NHS Leeds CCG, said: “While the warm weather and sunshine is an opportunity for people to top up their vitamin D, this week’s combination of heat and humidity could be quite uncomfortable for many people, especially the very young, old and those with breathing problems or other health conditions.

“Our health and care services are incredibly busy all year round, but spells of extreme weather can have a significant impact especially where people could have taken small precautions to avoid getting ill or injured. 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.”

People can stay up to date with the latest weather forecasts and alerts through the Met Office on its social media channels – Facebook (metoffice) or Twitter (@metoffice) or visiting www.metoffice.gov.uk

For summer health advice visit our summer health page or  or pick up a summer health leaflet from your local GP practice in Leeds.

How to cope in hot weather (Source: NHS website 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:

  • headache
  • 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.