Hot weather and health

Helping you prepare for the extremes of severe weather

Helping you to prepare and reduce the effects of extreme weather conditions on your health.

Enjoy the sun safely

Whilst many of us like to enjoy the sun and hot weather, we should make sure we do it safely and remember certain groups of people are more vulnerable than others to the effects of heat or ultraviolet radiation.

Extreme heat can force the body into overdrive as it tries to stay cool through perspiration and evaporation. Young children and older people are particularly at risk. Over exposure to sun is equally dangerous, with effects ranging from mild sunburn to skin cancer. It doesn't have to be hot for the UV index to be high.

Each year a heat health watch system operates in England run in association with the Department of Health.

The Met Office forecasts day-time and night-time maximum temperatures, which are monitored regionally. When certain heat thresholds are passed, a warning is issued and sent to relevant health professionals and people working in social care as well as displayed on our website. This is so you and health professionals can take action to minimise the impact of the heat on your health. Our Heat-Health Watch runs from 1st June to 15th September.

Heatwaves can be dangerous, especially for the very young, older people or those with a chronic disease. Prolonged exposure to very high temperatures can mean the body is unable to reduce its own temperature, causing dehydration and heatstroke, which can be fatal. In particular, hot temperatures overnight make it difficult for the body to cool.

Make sure you know what to do

Before a heatwave

  • Ensure you have plenty of cold fluids available.

During a heatwave

  • Try to keep your house cool, closing blinds or curtains can help.
  • At night, keep your sleeping area well ventilated. Night cooling is important as it allows the body to recuperate.
  • Try to stay cool by taking cool showers or baths and/or sprinkle yourself several times a day with cold water.
  • Avoid too much exercise, which can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and can even be fatal. Watch for signs of heat stress - an early sign is fatigue.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, but not alcohol, which dehydrates the body.
  • Try to eat as you normally would. Not eating properly may exacerbate health-related problems.
  • If driving, keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness. Take plenty of water with you and have regular rest breaks.
  • If you have vulnerable neighbours who may be at risk during a heatwave, try to visit them daily.
  • If you do go out, try and avoid the hottest part of the day (11 am to 3 pm) and seek shade where possible. Avoid being in the sun for long stretches.

Before going out in the sun

  • Check you have appropriate sun cream for your particular type of skin.

During sunny weather

  • The UV index (the strength of the sun) can be high at many times of the year - it doesn't have to be hot. The UV index can be strong through cloud even when the sun isn't directly shining.
  • If you go out, wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing, high factor sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid being in the sun for long stretches.
  • Reapply an appropriate factor sun cream at regular intervals during the day.

Do not leave children or animals in parked cars. Even on cool days, strong sunshine can make car interiors very hot.

Last updated: 4 August 2014