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Many people enjoy hot weather but there can be serious health consequences from too much heat and vulnerable groups are particularly at-risk in prolonged hot spells, preparing ahead will keep you and anyone you care for safe in the sun.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Heat exhaustion is not usually serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If it turns into heatstroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency.

The signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • a headache
  • dizziness and confusion
  • loss of appetite and feeling sick
  • excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
  • cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
  • fast breathing or pulse
  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • being very thirsty

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, they need to be cooled down:

  • Move them to a cool place.
  • Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
  • Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK.
  • Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good, too.
  • Stay with them until they’re better.

Signs of heat stroke include:

  • feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water
  • not sweating even while feeling too hot
  • a high temperature of 40C or above
  • fast breathing or shortness of breath
  • feeling confused
  • a fit (seizure)
  • loss of consciousness
  • not responsive

Call 999 if you or someone else have any signs of heatstroke.

Put the person in the recovery position if they lose consciousness while you’re waiting for help.

Keep an eye on children, the elderly and people with long-term health conditions (like diabetes or heart problems) because they’re more at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.


Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water and other fluids that it needs to work normally, if left untreated, it can get worse and become a serious problem.

Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include:

  • feeling thirsty
  • dark yellow and strong-smelling pee
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • feeling tired
  • a dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day

If you are dehydrated, being sick or have diarrhoea and are losing too much fluid, you need to put back the sugar, salts and minerals that your body has lost. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Your pharmacist can recommend oral rehydration sachets to help. If your symptoms do not get better with treatment, ring 111 or seek advice from your GP.

Keeping your child safe in the sun.

  • Keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.
  • Cover exposed parts of your child’s skin with sunscreen which has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above and is effective against UVA and UVB.
  • Be especially careful to protect your child’s shoulders and the back of their neck, as well as their nose, ears, cheeks and the tops of their feet. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day.
  • Encourage your child to play in the shade – under trees, for example – especially between 11am and 3pm. Attach a parasol or sunshade to your baby’s pushchair to keep them out of direct sunlight.
  • Cover your child in loose cotton clothes, such as an oversized T-shirt with sleeves. Get them to wear a floppy hat with a wide brim that shades their face, neck and ears.
  • Protect your child’s eyes with sunglasses that meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the CE mark (check the label).
  • Playing in a paddling pool is a good way of keeping babies and children cool. If your child is swimming, use a waterproof sunblock with an SPF of 30 or above and reapply after towelling.
  • Ensure your child is drinking plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • Keep your child’s bedroom cool during the day by closing blinds or curtains. You can also use a fan to circulate the air in the room.

Looking after vulnerable people during a heatwave

For those in high-risk groups, support from friends, family and neighbours may be critical for their safety. Simply checking in on your neighbours could make a big difference to their wellbeing and could help save lives.

  • Check in with older or unwell neighbours
  • Make sure they stay hydrated
  • Close curtains or pull down blinds, especially if the room is facing the sun
  • Check fridges, freezers and fans are working properly
  • Make sure medication is stored correctly
  • Offer to help with daily tasks or shopping to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion

Tips for keeping cool in hot weather

  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. You can open the windows for ventilation when it is cooler.
  • Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun and don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat.
  • Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn’t possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and diluted fruit juice. Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine (tea, coffee and cola) or drinks high in sugar
  • never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
  • walk in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly and wear a wide brimmed hat, if you have to go out in the heat
  • avoid exercising in the hottest parts of the day

Rashes, bites, sunburn and hay fever

Your local pharmacist can provide health advice for heat rash, bites, sunburn, and hay fever. You don’t need an appointment, and they can even provide you with the medicines at the same time.

We have more handy hints on our YouTube site.

Last Updated: Thursday 25th April 2024 - 9:32:am

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