Severe heatwaves are relatively uncommon in Wales. However, the experience across Northwest Europe in 2003 when 27,000 people died as a direct cause of the heatwave that year, is a reminder that heat can be fatal. In case of a heatwave, make sure you look after your own health and that of your family. It is not just children who need special attention; be aware that elderly people are also at risk, and make sure they are being checked on.
Keep out of the heat
- If a heatwave is forecast, try and plan your day in a way that allows you to stay out of the heat;
- Avoid alcohol as it can cause dehydration;
- If you can’t avoid strenuous outdoor activity, like sport, DIY, or gardening, keep it for cooler parts of the day, like early morning;
- If you must go out, stay in the shade. Wear a hat and light, loose-fitting clothes, preferably cotton. If you’ll be outside for some time, take plenty of water with you.
- Stay inside, in the coolest rooms in your home, as much as possible;
- Close the curtains in rooms that get a lot of sun;
- Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside;
Open them when the temperature inside rises, and at night for ventilation. If you are worried about security, at least open windows on the first floor and above;
- Take cool showers or baths, and splash yourself several times a day with cold water, particularly your face and the back of your neck.
- Drink regularly even if you do not feel thirsty – water and fruit juice are best;
- Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol as they can cause dehydration;
- Eat as you normally would. Try to eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit, which contain water.
- Contact your doctor, a pharmacist or NHS Direct (0845 4647) if you’re worried about your health during a heatwave, especially if you are taking medication, or have any unusual symptoms;
- Look after yourself and others, especially those at greater risk such as elderly people and children: symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, muscle weakness or cramps, pale skin and a high temperature. If you or someone you know experiences a sudden rise in temperature, confusion or loss of consciousness, heat stroke may have developed;
- If you have these symptoms, rest for several hours, keep cool and drink water or fruit juice. Seek medical advice if you get worse or the symptoms don’t go away.
People worried about their health during the heatwave are advised to talk to their GP, pharmacist, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or visit the website: www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk