Four ways to cope with heat and Covid-19 as level 2 heatwave warning triggered
Health experts have today (22/6) issued advice to people particularly at risk in hot weather, following a heatwave warning from the Met Office for the coming days.
Older people, the very young and people with certain long-term medical conditions are among those who could be worst affected as temperatures rise.
Public Health England has asked people to follow four simple steps to stay safe and well.
A level two warning has been issued, meaning there is a 60 per cent chance of temperatures being high enough on at least two consecutive days to have significant effects on health.
In addition to these health effects, this year brings the added challenge of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with more people working from home or staying at home due to shielding or self-isolation, thus being potentially exposed to high indoor temperatures.
The four ways to cope with the heat and virus are:
Stay cool at home
- Shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight, external shutters or shades are very effective, while internal blinds or curtains are less effective but cheaper. Note, metallic blinds and dark curtains can make a room hotter
- Open windows when the air feels cooler outside than inside, for example, at night. Try to get air flowing through your home, if possible
- Turn off the central heating, and lights and electrical equipment that aren’t in use.
- Use electric fans if the temperature is below 35°C, but do not aim the fan directly at the body and ensure you stay hydrated with regular drinks
- Do not use a fan if anyone in the home is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Check that fridges and freezers are working properly
- If you have concerns about an uncomfortably hot home that is affecting your health or someone else’s health, seek medical advice
- You may be able to get help from the environmental health department within your local authority; they can do a home hazard assessment
It’s important to look out for neighbours, family or friends who may be isolated and unable to care for themselves; making sure they are able to keep cool during a heatwave.
You can find out if your home is at risk of overheating and what measures you can take if there is a problem by downloading this checklist from the PHE heatwave webpage - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/heatwave-plan-for-england
Stay cool, keep well
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol - Fluid requirements are higher than normal in hot weather and after strenuous activity, to replace fluids lost through sweating. Everyone is at risk of dehydration in hot temperatures, but babies, children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Keeping hydrated will be especially important for people who are unwell with coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and managing their symptoms at home
- Look out for signs of dehydration such as increased thirst, a dry mouth, dark urine, and urinating infrequently or small amounts. Serious dehydration needs urgent medical attention, more information is available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dehydration
- Slow down when it is hot - Heavy activity can make you prone to heat related illnesses, even if you are fit and healthy. Avoid extreme physical exertion. If you can’t avoid strenuous outdoor activity, such as sport, DIY or gardening, keep it for cooler parts of the day – for example, in the early morning or evening
Cooler Safer Places
- Go indoors or outdoors, whichever feels cooler. It is important for your health to avoid getting hot in the first place. If you do get hot, it is important to give your body a break from the heat. It may be cooler outside in the shade than it is inside an overheated building
- Be on the lookout for signs of heat-related illnesses. Chronic illnesses can get worse in hot weather. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are 2 potentially serious conditions that can occur if you get too hot. Cool your skin with water, slow down and drink water.
We know that the following people may be more at risk from the effects of heat:
- Older people, especially those over 75
- Babies and young children
- People with a serious chronic condition, particularly dementia, heart,
- Breathing or mobility problems
- People with serious mental health problems
- People on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control (for example, diuretics, antihistamines, beta-blockers and antipsychotics
- People who are already ill and dehydrated (for example, from gastroenteritis)
- People who misuse alcohol or drugs
- People who are physically active (for example, soldiers, athletes, hikers and manual workers)
- And homeless people
In addition, clinical vulnerabilities that have been linked with worse outcomes from COVID-19 that are also risks for heat related harms are:
- High blood pressure
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Heart and lung conditions (cardiovascular disease)
- Conditions that affect the flow of blood in the brain (cerebrovascular disease)
- Kidney disease
For more information on how to cope in hot weather, visit www.nhs.uk/heatwave
For free medical advice for any non-emergency 24 hours a day, use NHS111 online or call NHS 111
Please do not go to A&E or call 999 unless it’s an emergency.