After a not-so-sterling start to the summer, you might be overjoyed at the arrival of this week's heatwave: at last, a chance to don a pair of shorts, sunglasses, and break out the barbecue.
But with added temperature comes added responsibility. It's important to be aware of the health risks that the hot weather presents, so that you can avoid falling victim to them.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are more common than you might think. The former is a precursor to the latter, and causes a marked drop in blood pressure. Typical symptoms may include dizziness, feelings of tiredness, confusion, and feeling or being sick. Left to develop, the effects of heat exhaustion can result in heatstroke, an even more serious condition which is characterised by a fever, hyperventilation and muscle cramps.
The best way to limit the effects of heat exhaustion is to transport the person experiencing symptoms to a cooler environment, and provide them with plenty of water. At the heatstroke stage, however, medical advice should be sought immediately.
There are several steps you can take to avoid heat exhaustion, and they aren’t particularly difficult to observe:
- Stay Hydrated
It’s vital to make sure you’re getting enough fluids (and then some) during warmer weather. That means plenty of colder drinks, and ideally those which do not contain dehydrating ingredients such as alcohol or caffeine. The NHS recommendation is eight glasses (or two litres) per day; but during hotter periods, you should certainly be consuming in excess of this.
- Know Your Limits
You might be eager to soak up some rays and get a tan, but be sure that you don’t overdo it during peak times. Lunchtime hours, from around mid-morning to mid-afternoon, tends to be the warmest period; so on particularly hot days, try to limit your exposure during these times, and enjoy the sun outside these hours where possible.
- Keep Ventilated
Indoor temperature is an important aspect to consider too. Make sure your home or place of work is sufficiently ventilated. When at home, it’s crucial to sleep in a cool, well-ventilated area, so that you aren’t exposed to high temperatures at night-time. One little-known yet useful method of staying cool at home is to position bowls or open containers of water around; the heat will cause the water to evaporate and the surrounding air will subsequently cool.
- Get the Right Cover
Sunburn isn’t a symptom of heat exhaustion, but it is nevertheless important to protect your skin from potential damage. Prior to going out, make sure you cover up with a sunscreen with an adequate level of protection, and remember to cover your head with a hat if necessary.
Further advice on preventing heat wave related illnesses is, as always, available from your GP.