Areas around England may experience “heatwave” conditions over the next few days, according to Met Office forecasts. Affected areas include the West Midlands, East Midlands, East of England, South East England and London.
Warnings that a heatwave may be imminent are triggered when the Met Office forecasts that there is a 60% chance of temperatures being high enough on at least two consecutive days and the intervening night to have a significant effect on health.
This will normally happen two or three days before a heatwave is expected to occur. This is a critical stage to ensure readiness and swift action to reduce harm from a potential heatwave. During hot spells vulnerable groups, such as the older people, feel the acute effects of heat more than others and it’s long been recognised that death rates rise in the early stages of heatwaves.
Even if temperatures do not hit extreme levels, Public Health England (PHE) still advises people to keep safe in the sun, seek shade to cool down and keep hydrated with plenty of cool fluids.
Top advice for being sun safe:
- try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm
- wear UV sunglasses, preferably wraparound, to reduce UV exposure to the eyes, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen of at least SPF15 with UVA protection, wear a hat and light scarf. Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes. This should minimise the risk of sunburn.
- drink lots of cool drinks
- look out for others especially vulnerable groups such as the older people, young children and babies and those with serious illnesses
- never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
- if you start to feel unwell, disoriented or confused, or collapse or faint, advice is to stop fasting and have a drink of water or other fluid. This is especially important for older adults, those with poorly controlled medical conditions such as low/high blood pressure, diabetes and those who are receiving dialysis treatment
- the Muslim Council of Britain has confirmed that breaking fast in such conditions is allowable under Islamic law. Also make sure to check on others in the community who may be at greater risk and keep an eye on children to ensure they are having a safe and healthy Ramadan
- guidance has been produced to help ensure that members of the Muslim community. The Guide to healthy fasting in Ramadan has been produced in association with the NHS
Dr Rob Carr, PHE West Midlands Health Protection Team director, said: “While many people enjoy hot weather, high temperatures can be dangerous, especially for people who may be particularly vulnerable such as older people, young children and those with serious illnesses.
“The Heatwave Plan is an important component of overall emergency planning and sets out a series of clear actions that can be taken by healthcare organisations, local authorities, professionals working with vulnerable people, and individuals to help keep people safe during extreme heat. To prepare for any type of hot weather this summer, we strongly encourage each locality to consider the actions in this plan and adapt them to their local situation, as a component of wider resilience planning and long-term climate change adaptation arrangements.
“Everyone can enjoy the sun safely by keeping out of the heat at the hottest time of the day, avoiding sunburn and staying hydrated with plenty of cool drinks. Older people and those with long-term illnesses are particularly vulnerable to the effects of very hot weather, so it’s important to look out for them and keep indoor areas as cool as possible.”
Many members of the Muslim community may be fasting during the daylight hours in the month of Ramadan – which this year falls between (approximately) 29 June and 29 July.
Dr Carr added: “It is common for people to have one meal just before sunrise and an evening meal after sunset during Ramadan. During hot weather, dehydration is a common and serious risk. It is important to balance food and fluid intake between fasts and especially to drink enough water.”
Advice for those fasting during Ramadan:
Remember that it can get uncomfortably hot indoors too. Try to keep your bedroom and living space cool, by closing the curtains on windows that receive the sun and opening your windows at cooler times of the day and overnight when you can. However, make sure that you bear home security in mind too and don’t leave windows open when you leave the house. Turn off non-essential lights and electrical items as these generate heat.
Health and social care workers should regularly check on vulnerable patients, share sun safety messages, make sure room temperatures are set below 26 degrees and ensure patients have access to cold water and ice.
Local authorities, professionals and community groups can prepare for hot weather by reviewing the Heatwave Plan for England on the PHE website.
See the Heatwave Plan for England for more information or http://sunsmart.org.uk/UV-the-sun-and-skin-cancer/how-to-enjoy-the-sun-safely/