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Phew, It's A Heatwave

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Most of us look forward to summer and welcome the warm weather when it finally arrives. But when it stays very hot for a long period of time, there can be associated health risks:

  • Dehydration (caused by not taking in enough fluids – and serious dehydration can turn into a medical emergency)

  • Overheating (particularly worsens symptoms for people with breathing problems (especially asthma) or heart problems)

  • Heat stroke/heat exhaustion

Although a heatwave can affect any of us, the most vulnerable people are:

  • older people (particularly people over 75)

  • young children and babies

  • people who have:

- existing heart or breathing problems (or other serious long-term illnesses)

- mobility problems

- serious mental health problems

- certain medication, in particular those that affect sweating and temperature control

- a history of alcohol or drug misuse

- physically active jobs, e.g. labourers or gardeners, or people who like doing sports


  • It may sound a bit obvious, but try to stay out of the sun as much as possible, particularly if you are sensitive to the effects of heat. If you do have to go out, avoid the hours between 11 am and 3 pm as this is the hottest part of the day. And wear a hat and sunglasses!

  • When it’s hotter outside than inside, it can actually help to shut the windows and pull down the shades. If you have light-coloured curtains in the house, keep them closed (dark curtains will make the room hotter). Once it’s cooler outside, open the windows again to let the cool, refreshing air in. And open them all throughout the house as well as all the doors so the cool air circulates everywhere.

  • Have the odd cool shower during the day – that will make you feel better! Or if you can’t do that, splash yourself with plenty of cool water.

  • It is very important that you drink lots of fluids, particularly water. If you don’t like water (which I don’t!), add squash to it to make it more palatable. And avoid alcohol – although that cool gin and tonic in a frosty glass with ice and a slice of lemon looks very tempting, it will worsen the effects of the heat.

  • Make sure you have plenty of supplies in the house, e.g. food, water, medicines etc., so you don’t have to go out shopping in the heat of the day.

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing (preferably light-coloured).

  • And consider when going to bed that your bedroom may not be the coolest place in the house! In a heatwave, I’ll sleep on the living room floor as it’s much cooler than anywhere else in the house, particularly upstairs.

But the most important thing is - keep those fluids up!

Written by Leslie Chetland

23rd July 2019

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