Anyone can become unwell when the weather is hot, particularly for those over the age of 65 or those with pre-existing health conditions such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. 

Hot weather can cause some people to become unwell through overheating (becoming uncomfortably hot) dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Actions you can take to stay safe in hot weather

  • Keep out of the sun at the hottest time of the day, between 11am and 3pm.
  • If you are going to do a physical activity (for example exercise or walking the dog), plan to do these during times of the day when it is cooler such as the morning or evening.
  • Keep your home cool by closing windows and curtains in rooms that face the sun.
  • If you do go outside, cover up with suitable clothing such as an appropriate hat and sunglasses, seek shade and apply sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and limit your alcohol intake.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbours who may be at higher risk of becoming unwell, and if you are at higher risk, ask them to do the same for you.
  • Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke and what to do if you or someone else has them.
  • Follow the weather updates and advice on keeping well in the heat.
  • Contact NHS 111 when you fall ill or get injured but it is not an emergency.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body overheats and cannot cool down. Heat exhaustion does not usually need emergency medical attention if you cool down within 30 minutes. If you do not take action to cool down, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.

Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • tiredness

  • weakness

  • feeling faint

  • headache

  • muscle cramps

  • feeling or being sick

  • heavy sweating

  • intense thirst.

Heatstroke is where the body is no longer able to cool down and the body temperature becomes dangerously high.

Common symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • confusion
  • lack of co-ordination
  • fast heartbeat
  • fast breathing or shortness of breath
  • hot skin that is not sweating
  • seizures.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you think someone has heatstroke you should dial 999 and then try to cool them down.

You can find out more about symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke on NHS.UK.

How to cool down if you or someone else has symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • move to a cooler place such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade
  • remove all unnecessary clothing like a jacket or socks
  • drink cool water, a sports or rehydration drink, or eat cold and water rich foods like ice-lollies
  • apply cool water by spray or sponge to exposed skin, and using cold packs wrapped in a cloth and put under the armpits or on the neck can also help.

You should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.

If you are concerned about symptoms, or they are worsening, seek medical advice by contacting NHS 111. In an emergency, or if you think someone has heatstroke, dial 999.

Dr Mohit Mandiratta on heat exhaustion, heatstroke and how to cool someone down

Dr Mohit Mandiratta, a GP in the Black Country, describes the symptoms of heat exhaustion and how to cool someone down.
Dr Mohit Mandiratta, a GP in the Black Country, describes the differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

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