Large parts of England have been enjoying a heatwave recently. With the warm weather comes increased risks to the health. These include sunburn from being out in the sun too long as well as heat stroke, dehydration and in the most severe cases even death. nhs.uk report an average of 2000 heat related deaths each year in England, with people over 75 years old the most at risk. Some of these risks can be made worse due to current restrictions relating to Covid-19. Where I work for example, we are not allowed to switch on the air conditioning due to concerns that the recycled air could spread any existing Covid- 19 virus from members to other members and staff. To try and reduce this we have all our extractor fans on full as well as opening windows and exits to try and reduce the temperature. We are also only allowing members who pre-book their activity to enter the building and only at the time they booked to help us with track and trace should we need it, along with all of the other current Government guidelines.
So how can we protect ourselves during the heatwave in our personal lives. The first one is to increase our water intake. During hot weather we sweat more to help regulate body temperature. The water loss from sweat needs to be replenished as quickly as possible. Keeping a bottle of water with you is an easy way to stay hydrated. Reducing alcohol intake will also help prevent heat stroke and heat exhaustion during a heatwave. I understand this will be difficult for some. When the sun is out on a nice day I enjoy sitting in a beer garden with a cold pint of beer, or going to a friends house for a BBQ, however alcohol increases dehydration so for every alcoholic drink you have aim for two glasses of water to stay hydrated.
Another way we can all stay safe during a heatwave is to stay in a shaded area between 11am and 3pm. This is when the heat from the sun is at its most intense which increases the risks to health. As nice as it is to be out in the sun, we must all do so in a safe way. To help with this use a high-level sun cream, wear a hat, and lighter coloured cloths. For more information on how to stay safe in a heatwave visit nhs.uk.
Another important consideration is the health of any pets you may have during a heatwave. Animals are generally good at keeping safe in the sun by staying in the shade, however it is important to ensure they have regular access to water and shade. If you have a dog take them for their walk early in the morning and late in the evening to prevent over-heating and to protect their feet. When the temperature is high the roads and pavements get hot which can cause the pads on a dog’s feet to burn. Also bring water and a bowl with you in your dog walking bag so that your dog can stay hydrated and cool during a walk.
Finally, if you have a vulnerable family member, friend, or neighbour remember to check in on them to make sure they have everything they need to stay safe.