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How to stay safe in hot weather

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As summer rolls around and the temperatures begin to soar, it's essential to stay safe and healthy during the rising heat.

Although the UK may not be famous for heatwaves, we can have extreme temperatures occasionally throughout the summer months, so knowing how to stay safe in hot weather can make all the difference for you and the people around you.

Whether you're enjoying a sunny spell at home or planning a trip abroad, these heatwave safety tips will ensure you keep cool and protected.

Jump to:
What is considered a heatwave?
Stay informed 
Tips to stay safe in hot weather
Practical tips for pets in hot weather
Protect vulnerable individuals in hot weather
Plan ahead for hot weather

What is considered a heatwave?

According to the Met Office, a heatwave is a period of unusually hot weather that lasts several days. While the threshold varies by region, in the UK, a heatwave is declared when daily maximum temperatures go beyond the average by 5°C for three consecutive days.

Stay informed

Keeping up-to-date with weather forecasts and heatwave warnings can help you take timely action. You can use reliable sources like the Met Office or BBC Weather for the latest information

The Government website can inform you of local services disrupted by severe weather and many local councils also offer heatwave alert services via text or email.

Recognise the signs of heat-related illnesses

Preparing for hot weather is crucial, especially since the UK population is generally less accustomed to extreme heat compared to other countries. Recognising the signs of heat-related illnesses and responding promptly can prevent severe complications or even fatalities.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are serious conditions that demand immediate attention. In the summer of 2023 alone, an estimated 2,295 deaths were linked to five significant heat periods during the season. This is why it’s so important to stay vigilant and informed about the risks associated with hot weather.

  • Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and headache. If you or someone else shows these signs, move to a cooler place, drink water, and rest.
  • Heatstroke: A more severe condition, heatstroke symptoms include a high body temperature (40°C or higher), hot and dry skin, confusion, and loss of consciousness. This is a medical emergency—call 999 immediately.

More information on heat-related illnesses can be found on the NHS website.

Tips to stay safe in hot weather

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While hot weather can present some challenges, there are many positives, and most people can enjoy the warmer months by taking proper precautions. Here are some additional heatwave safety tips to help you and your family make the most of the good weather:

Stay hydrated

This may be one of the simplest yet most effective heatwave safety tips: stay hydrated. Dehydration can sneak up on you, leading to dizziness, headaches, and in severe cases, heatstroke.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Both can contribute to dehydration. Opt for water, herbal teas, or diluted fruit juices.
  • Drink plenty of water: Aim to drink at least two litres of water a day. During a heatwave, you might need more, especially if you're active.
  • Eat hydrating foods: Fruits like watermelon, cucumbers, and oranges are high in water content and can help keep you hydrated, but you should still aim to drink the recommended amount of fluids.
    If you’re finding it tricky to keep the children around you hydrated, we’ve got some hints for establishing a good hydration routine and much more in our blog on tips to keep kids cool in hot weather.

Protect your skin

Sunburn is skin damage resulting from ultraviolet (UV) rays. It typically makes the skin red, sore, warm, tender, and occasionally itchy for about a week. Sunburn not only damages your skin but also affects your body's ability to cool itself.

  • Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Reapply every two hours, or more often if you're sweating or swimming.
  • Seek shade: Whenever possible, stay in the shade, especially during the hottest times of the day; 11am - 3pm.

What you wear can significantly affect how you feel in the heat. Opt for loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing as dark colours absorb more heat. Although it may seem counter-productive, wearing long sleeves and trousers can also help keep you cooler - breathable fabrics like cotton or linen work best.

Don’t forget about protecting your face and eyes from direct sunlight with a hat and UV-protective sunglasses, too.

Stay cool indoors and limit outdoor activities

Mother And Daughter Keep Cool By Fan

Sometimes, the best way to beat the heat is to stay indoors. During a heatwave, adjust your routine to avoid being outside during the hottest parts of the day, typically between 11am and 3pm. Here are a few tips for keeping cool indoors:

  • Use fans and air conditioning: If you have air conditioning, use it wisely. Ceiling fans can also help circulate air. Popping a bowl of ice in front of a fan can help to cool the air slightly, too.
  • Close curtains and blinds: Keeping them closed during the hottest parts of the day can help prevent your home from feeling like a greenhouse.
  • Cool showers and baths: Taking a cool shower or bath can help lower your body temperature. If this isn’t an option, you can quickly cool down by putting your wrists or feet in cool water
  • Exercise early or late: If you enjoy outdoor exercise, plan your workouts for early mornings or late evenings when it's cooler.
  • Avoid strenuous activities: Try to postpone heavy manual labour or intense exercise until the weather cools down.
  • Take frequent breaks: If you need to be outside for any reason, remember to take frequent breaks in the shade and stay hydrated.

For more, check out our tips to keep your home cool during summer.

Practical tips for pets in hot weather

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Don't forget about your furry friends during a heatwave - pets can suffer from heat-related illnesses too!

  • Provide plenty of water: Ensure pets have access to fresh water at all times.
  • Never leave pets in cars: Even with the windows cracked, cars can become dangerously hot in minutes.
  • Ensure pets always have access to shade: If you have small furries like rabbits or guinea pigs that live outdoors, make sure that their hutch, run or home is in a shady spot throughout the day.
  • Walk pets during cooler hours: Early morning or late evening walks are best. Avoid hot pavements, which can burn their paws.
  • Use cooling accessories: Many pet stores sell cooling mats, collars, lolly ice moulds and even paddling pools for affordable prices.

Protect vulnerable individuals in hot weather

Be mindful of those around you who may be more susceptible to the effects of extreme heat, including the elderly, young children, and those with chronic illnesses.

  • Check on neighbours: If you have elderly or vulnerable neighbours, check on them regularly to ensure they're coping with the heat.
  • Ensure proper hydration and cool environments: Make sure they have access to cool water and a fan or air conditioning.
  • Keep medicines cool: Some medications can be less effective if stored at high temperatures.

If you enjoy getting involved in social and support activities going on in your local area, check out our Community Projects hub.

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Plan ahead for hot weather

Preparation is key to staying safe during a heatwave. 

  • Keep emergency contacts handy: Have a list of emergency contacts, including your doctor and local hospitals.
  • Stock up on essentials: Ensure you have enough water, non-perishable food, and any necessary medications.
  • Know your local cooling centres: In extreme heat, some local councils open cooling centres where you can go to stay safe.