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Health related services

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can have both positive and negative effects on human health

We have developed a number of health related services that help to lessen the effects of extreme weather on peoples' health and wellbeing

Pollen forecast

We manage the only pollen count monitoring network in the UK using information from our network, our weather data and expertise from organisations such as the National Pollen and Aerobiological Unit and PollenUK to produce forecasts that help support allergy and hay fever sufferers through the most difficult time of the year.

Cold Weather Alert

In the UK there are, on average, 25,000 extra deaths in winter compared to other months of the year - 80% are thought to be due to the cold. The cold can cause physiological effects such as thicker blood; increases in blood pressure; and tightening of the airways - making people who already have chronic conditions even more vulnerable. There is a link between the onset of cold weather and deaths from both heart attacks and respiratory illnesses. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls.

Each year from 1 November to 31 March, we operate a Cold Weather Alert system which warns health professionals and the public when a spell of cold weather is imminent.

Heat-Health Watch

Heatwaves can be dangerous, especially for the very young, the very old 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.

Each year, from 1 June to 15 September, a Heat-Health Watch system operates in England, alerting health professionals and the public to spells of hot weather.

UV and sun health

We currently provide a UV index forecast for regions in the UK in the summer. The forecast takes into account sun position, cloud cover and stratospheric ozone.

The aim of the index is to warn people of increased risk and encourage them to think about the link between UV and health even Winter sun and UV so that they change their behaviour in order to protect themselves against the risks of skin cancer and skin damage.

Air pollution

The air we breathe contains small amounts of trace gases and particles which can be harmful to our health. Pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are routinely released into the atmosphere as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels and industrial processes. Chemical interactions amongst these primary pollutants, under the influence of heat and sunshine, can give rise to additional secondary pollutants, such as ozone. Individually or together, these common pollutants degrade the quality of the air we breathe and an index has been devised to quantify the air quality and its impact on human health.

The Air pollution (DAQI) is the standard index defined by Defra for characterising air quality. Air quality can also be degraded by the release of other, less common pollutants, for example during an accidental release of a harmful chemical. This unexpected type of air pollution is not covered by the routine air quality forecast described here.

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