Dr Sam Ghebrehewet, Regional Deputy Director, UKHSA North West shares his tips on how to enjoy the hot weather safely
Beat the heat
Recently we’ve been blessed with warm, sunny weather and hopefully there’s more to come but it’s important to remember that some people struggle to cope in the heat.
Hot weather can pose a health risk to vulnerable people and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, lung problems and other diseases.
Anyone can become unwell when the weather is hot but people at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell include older people, babies and young children, people with underlying medical conditions or on certain medications, those with serious mental health problems or who are drug or alcohol dependent, homeless people and those who live alone.
People who are physically active and spend a lot of time outside such as runners, cyclists and walkers and those who work outdoors or in manual labour, should also be careful.
The good news is, we can all take steps to allow us to enjoy the hot weather safely and help people who might be more vulnerable as the temperatures rise.
During the summer, UKHSA works with the Met Office to issue alerts if the weather is so hot that it has the potential to affect people’s health. Check the weather forecast and be prepared by looking out for our heat-health alerts.
Keep an eye on friends, family or neighbours who may need help keeping cool and hydrated.
Stay cool indoors by closing curtains on windows that face the sun, open windows when its cooler outside than in and turn off any unnecessary electrical items. Use electric fans if the temperature is below 35°C, but do not aim the fan directly at the body. Remember it is sometimes cooler sitting in a park under a tree than it is in a home that is too hot.
If you’re out and about, try to keep out of the sun and avoid physical exertion in the hottest part of the day, usually between 11am and 3pm. Remember to take water or other hydrating drinks with you and wear a hat, sunglasses and light, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothes. Apply sunscreen frequently.
Never leave babies, children, older people or vulnerable people or pets alone in stationary cars in hot weather.
If you or others feel unwell, get dizzy, feel weak, anxious or have intense thirst, move to a cool place, rehydrate and cool your body down.
Rest in a cool place if you have painful muscular spasms and drink plenty of cool drinks or ice lollies. Seek medical attention if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist.
Summer is a great time to explore nature but don’t forget to #BeTickAware.
Ticks can transmit Lyme Disease so it’s important to know what ticks look like, where they can be found and practice prevention behaviours to avoid getting bitten. Walk on paths, avoid dense vegetation and wear light-coloured clothes so ticks can be seen and removed.
After outdoor activities, carry out a tick check on you, your family and pets. If you do get bitten, remove the tick quickly with fine-tipped tweezers, grip the head close to the skin and pull upwards. Once the tick is removed, wipe the bite site with antibacterial wipes to prevent infection.
Tell your GP if you feel unwell after spending time in woodland, heath, parks or gardens where ticks could live.
More info here.
Open water swimming
During warmer weather, going for a swim can be so refreshing. If you are going into open water to cool-down, take care and follow local safety advice. Open water swimming can increase the risk of gastrointestinal illnesses, or stomach bugs, which may cause diarrhoea and/or vomiting, as well as respiratory, skin, ear and eye infections.
Visiting a farm is an enjoyable and educational experience for many people, particularly children. But farm animals can carry bugs and bacteria that can be passed to humans and cause illness which can be particularly serious for children or pregnant women.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you have touched animals or surfaces in animal areas and before eating or drinking. Soap and water is better than alcohol gels or wipes. Farms usually provide hand washing facilities, so we encourage people to use these to ensure the only thing they take away from their visit is happy memories.
Find out more here.
If you’re planning to travel abroad this summer, check health information for your destination before you go. You may need vaccines to protect you from serious diseases found in some parts of the world and medication, for example to protect you against malaria.
Check the advice for your destination on TravelHealthPro and speak to your practice nurse, GP, pharmacist or a travel clinic ideally 4-6 weeks before travel to get appropriate advice for your trip.
Check the COVID-19 rules and entry requirements for the country you are travelling to. Vaccines can prevent a number of different infections including some of the illnesses spread through food and water, such as Hepatitis A, typhoid and some diseases spread by insects.
Also take basic precautions with food and water and insect bites, carry a basic first aid kit and know when to see medical help.
The COVID-19 vaccine still has a crucial role to play in protecting those at greatest risk of severe illness from the virus, including those with a weakened immune system as well as all aged 75 and above. The 2023 spring coronavirus (COVID-19) booster is available until 30 June 2023 so make sure you’ve had yours if you’re eligible.
The booster is being offered to adults aged 75 and over, care home residents, individuals aged 5 years and over who are immunosuppressed, Those eligible are now able to book in on the National Booking Service or NHS App.
As we plan for holidays, festivals and other events this summer, prioritise your sexual and reproductive health, as there have been rises in shigella, gonorrhoea and syphilis this year.
You should test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) regularly to make sure they are diagnosed and treated as early as possible to prevent them from spreading and causing long term health complications.
Condoms protect against both unplanned pregnancy and STIs. Buy condoms before going on holiday or to festivals to avoid problems with language and trying to find somewhere to buy them.
Contraception is free on the NHS for everyone. If you’re planning a trip abroad, make sure you have enough contraceptive to last the duration of your trip.
For more advice click here.
It is important that anyone eligible has the mpox vaccination before the vaccine programme ends this summer.
Vaccines remain available for gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (GBMSM) at risk from mpox until 31 July (for the second dose). Find an mpox vaccination site to get protected.
Mpox can spread through close physical contact like skin-to-skin contact, kissing, sex or sharing things like bedding and towels. Remain alert to the signs and symptoms of mpox which include recent unusual spots, ulcers or blisters on your body, fever, headaches, muscle aches, chills and exhaustion as well as swollen glands.
Call a sexual health clinic if you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone with mpox. More information here.
Summer is a great time to enjoy a BBQ with family and friends. Yet warm weather and outdoor cooking can create conditions that enable bacteria to grow. We tend to see more cases of gastrointestinal illness at this time of year.
Food poisoning can be avoided by following good food hygiene practices including washing your hands, cleaning utensils and surfaces, defrosting meat thoroughly and ensuring meat is cooked at the right temperature for the correct length of time.
Handwashing before preparing food and after handling raw meat is essential. More BBQ food safety tips from Food Standards Agency