Beat the heat - staying well in hot weather

Although most of us welcome the summer sun, high temperatures can be harmful to your health.

Public Health and NHS England have produced a leaflet offering advice and information to how to stay safe in hot weather, including how to keep your home cool. It also includes information on who is at greatest risk of ill health from the heat, how to recognise when your or someone else’s health may be affected, and what to do if you or someone else becomes unwell as a result of the heat. 

Advice from Public Health England

Stay out of the heat

  • Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
  • If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf
  • Avoid extreme physical exertion
  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes
  • Try and find a shaded area to sit in

Cool yourself down

  • Have plenty of cold drinks and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks
  • Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content
  • Take a cool shower, bath or body wash
  • Sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck

Keep your environment cool

  • Keeping your living space cool is especially important for infants, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions or who can't look after themselves
  • Place a thermometer in your main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature
  • Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day, and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped
  • Close curtains that receive morning or afternoon sun, however, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat – consider replacing or putting reflective material in between them and the window space
  • Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment – they generate heat
  • Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air
  • If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping
  • Electric fans may provide some relief, if temperatures are below 35°C

Longer-term options:

  • Consider putting up external shading outside windows
  • Use pale, reflective external paints
  • Have your loft and cavity walls insulated – this keeps the heat in when it's cold and out when it's hot
  • Grow trees and leafy plants near windows to act as natural air-conditioners

Look out for others

  • Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they're able to keep cool
  • Ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars
  • Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave
  • Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is unwell or further help is needed

If you have a health problem

  • Keep medicines below 25°C or in the refrigerator (read the storage instructions on the packaging)
  • Seek medical advice if you're suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications

If you or others feel unwell

  • Try to get help if you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and headache
  • Move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature
  • Drink some water or fruit juice to rehydrate
  • Rest immediately in a cool place if you have painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen, in many cases after sustained exercise during very hot weather), and drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes
  • Medical attention is needed if heat cramps last more than one hour
  • Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist

Parents and carers are also advised to take extra care to ensure children play safely and keep well hydrated.

Health and social care workers in the community, hospitals and care homes are advised to regularly check on vulnerable patients, share sun safety messages, make sure room temperatures are set below 26°C, ensure patients have access to cold water and ice and that medicines are stored in a cool place.

Continuous hot weather can cause heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include feeling sick, faint and sweating heavily. If a person with heat exhaustion is taken quickly to a cool place, is given water to drink and remove any unnecessary, heavier clothing, they should begin to feel better within half an hour and have no long-term complications. Without treatment, they could develop heatstroke.

Heatstroke is far more serious than heat exhaustion, and vulnerable people such as the very young, elderly and those with chronic conditions are more at risk. Symptoms of heatstroke include mental confusion, rapid shallow breaking and a loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately.

Please enjoy the sun safely by staying cool, drinking lots of cold fluids and checking on those you know are at risk. Patients and the public can phone NHS 111 in addition to their GP if they are concerned about their health or others. You can also speak to your local pharmacist or go to your local walk in clinic.

What to do after flooding occurs

Flash flooding can be a problem in the UK, and could occur during the summer.

  • Take care as there may be hidden dangers in the flood water like sharp objects, raised manhole covers and pollution
  • Flood water could have caused structural damage to your property
  • In almost all cases the insurance company will send a loss adjuster to look at your property. They will confirm what repairs and replacements are needed and covered by your policy
  • If you rent your property, contact your landlord and your contents insurance company as soon as possible
  • Open the doors and windows to ventilate your home (it takes a brick about 25mm/1inch a month to dry out)
  • Remember to unblock your airbricks and doorways, but take care to ensure your house is secure against intruders