Sunny weather in the County of Lancashire is a welcome sight for most of us. However, the reality is that extreme hot weather can seriously damage your health and the health of others in a number of ways. For example, if the hot spell persists for a number of days at a time (a heatwave) it can be fatal for those people such as the very young and the elderly, or those with heart or respiratory problems, or people on certain medications. These people are particularly vulnerable to the heat.
By taking some simple precautions you can minimise the risks of ill health to yourself and others during hot weather.
During a hot spell it is important to keep yourself cool to avoid heat exhaustion.
The signs that you or someone else are suffering from heat exhaustion include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting (feeling sick or being sick)
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Pale skin
- High temperature
Heat stroke is very serious and can result in death if not treated early. Heat stroke can develop if heat exhaustion is not treated early enough. The signs that you or someone else is suffering from heat stroke include:
- An intense thirst
- Hot, red and dry skin
- A sudden rise in temperature
- Loss of consciousness
What should I do?
To avoid becoming ill during the hot weather you should ensure that you and any one you care for who may be vulnerable
- move to a cool room or draw the curtains
- use a fan to cool a room
- drink plenty of water or fruit juice
- avoid alcohol, tea and coffee
- eat normally but eat foods which contain more water such as salads and fruit,
- if you can, take a lukewarm shower or bath or sponge yourself regularly with cold water to keep cool.
Other tips to keep cool
- Stay out of the heat – keep out of the sun between 11.00 am and 3.00pm.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
- Avoid strenuous exercise such as jogging
- Wear a hat and sunscreen if you have to go out
- Put a thermometer in your bedroom and main living room to keep an eye on the temperature
- Keep an eye on the local weather forecast and weather warnings from the Met Office
Be alert and call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or a doctor if you or someone you know is unwell
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Sunburn is the damaging effect on the skin of the ultraviolet (UV) light contained in sunlight. With too much exposure to UV light, your skin overheats and becomes red and painful, and may later peel or blister.
Sunburn does not just happen in hot weather - reflection of light off the snow can also cause sunburn. Although a breeze, cloudy sky or swimming may make you feel cooler, the sunlight can still get through to damage your skin.
What are the signs of sunburn?
Severe sunburn can cause:
- swelling of the skin
At the same time there may also be symptoms of heatstroke, such as:
The symptoms of sunburn are not usually immediately obvious, and the worst pain occurs 6-48 hours after being in the sun.
What is the treatment for sunburn?
If a baby or small child has been sunburnt, or if blisters, a rash, or fever occur, seek medical advice from your GP, an NHS Walk-in centre, or by phoning NHS Direct on 0845 4647.
- Avoid direct sunlight by covering up and staying in the shade, until the sunburn has healed.
- Cool the skin by sponging it with tepid (lukewarm) water or having a cool shower or bath.
- Drink plenty of fluids to replace the water lost through sweating in the sun, and to cool down.
Do not drink alcohol because it will dehydrate you further.
For mild sunburn - apply a moisturising lotion or a special aftersun cream from a pharmacy. Aftersun helps to cool the skin as well as moisturising and relieving the feeling of tightness. Calamine lotion can also be used to relieve itching and soreness.
For adults, painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.
The best remedy for sun burn is to avoid it in the first place
Tips to prevent you from getting sunburn
- Avoid strong sunlight whenever possible, and cover up with loose clothing and a hat. Try to avoid going out when the sun is at its strongest, between 11am and 3pm.
- Thickly apply sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 before going out in the sun.
- Babies under 12 months should be kept in the shade and covered up with a high factor sun lotion or sunblock.
- Encourage young children to play in the shade, and make sure they wear sunhats and a high SPF lotion.
- Choose a lotion that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, for maximum protection.
- When buying sunglasses, look for a style with UV filters
- Apply Sun lotion half an hour before going into the sun and apply/reapply the lotion regularly and generously.
You can find more information about sun safety on the NHS Direct website under the summer health zone via the mind and body magazine link.
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Splashing about in a pool or the sea can be the most refreshing way to have fun during the hot weather, but being in or near the water can be dangerous, and sometimes even fatal. Here are some simple safety guidelines to keep adults and children safe in the water. Teach your children how to swim from an early age, encouraging them to be strong swimmers. Keep an eye on your child at all times when they are near or in water Remember, no one should swim :
- just after eating,
- when they're tired or cold
- out to sea,
- with inflatables in the sea,
- in lakes, rivers or canals unless there are specific facilities there
'Tomb-stoning', which means jumping from cliffs into the sea, should be avoided completely. Even if other children or adults are doing it, don't be tempted. This is an extremely dangerous thing to do, and many people have been seriously injured and even killed as a result.
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Raw meats such as burgers, sausages and chicken can carry food poisoning bugs. If raw meats aren’t cooked properly, if they come into contact with ready to eat food or if they contaminate surfaces and equipment used to prepare food that won’t be cooked, you risk causing illness.
You can reduce the risk of food poisoning by:
- Light charcoal barbecues well in advance, making sure you use enough charcoal and waiting until it is glowing red (with a powdery grey surface) before starting cooking.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly – before preparing food and after touching raw meat and before eating.
- Wash vegetables and salad items carefully to remove any soil and dirt, which can carry bugs.
- Make sure all cooking and eating utensils and work surfaces are spotlessly clean before use.
- Keep pets away from food, dishes and preparation surfaces.
- Unless the cooking instructions state otherwise, ensure that raw meat is completely defrosted (in the fridge or a microwave) before barbecuing so that it cooks evenly.
- Never part-cook on a barbecue and finish cooking later. However, you can fully cook meat and chicken at home, keep it chilled, and then barbecue it to add flavour. This is the ideal way to avoid undercooking your chicken portions on the barbecue!
- Always keep cold food cold and hot foods hot to stop bugs multiplying – don’t leave food standing around.
- Keep raw meats in a separate container to prevent contaminating other foods.
- At the barbecue only remove the lid of the insulated container when essential and only take out the quantity of meat that will fit on the barbecue.
- Keep serving bowls, food and utensils covered to protect from dust and insects.
- Make sure you follow any cooking instructions provided.
- Turn food regularly and make sure burgers, sausages and chicken are cooked until they are piping hot throughout, there is no pinkness inside, and the juices run clear. A brown or charred appearance does not mean meat is cooked right through!
- If you reheat food make sure it is piping hot throughout.
Observing good hygiene
- Always keep raw meats separate from other food even when cooking.
- Always use separate utensils for transferring the raw meat and handling the cooked meat.
- Never put cooked food on plates that held raw meat.
- Clean all cooking and eating utensils and work surfaces after use.
Throw away barbecued food left out for more than one to two hours, in hot weather.
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Consider relaxing the dress code during a heat wave. Better to have productive employees wearing shorts than to have well-dressed employees leaving at noon because they are ill.
Be kind to yourself and to your employees. Like you they may be feeling miserable because they are not sleeping well. If you are not lucky enough to have air conditioning, make sure they have access to plenty of water, blinds on the windows and fans to keep cool.
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Your companion animals are enduring the hot weather, too, and many of them are wearing fur coats. Be sure they have plenty of clean, fresh water available and a cool or shady place they can go to during the heat of the day.
Heat stroke / hyperthermia in dogs
This is an abnormally high body temperature and is more common in short nosed dogs and long haired dogs, but can happen in all breeds.
Dogs will pant heavily and can show drooling, restlessness, unsteadiness, collapse and even coma and death! First aid treatment is geared towards cooling down the dog. Do this with tepid water or wet blankets and ring your vet. Your vet may need to use a cold intravenous drip to further cool down the patient. Clear the mouth if necessary.
Do not immerse the patient in cold water as this can cause shock!
Heatstroke in cats
Heatstroke is rare but can happen if a cat has been trapped somewhere such as a greenhouse on a hot day. Affected animals are weak, panting, dribbling and distressed.
Put the cat somewhere cool, preferably in a draught. Wet their coat with tepid water (not cold water as this contracts the blood vessels in the skin and slows heat loss) and phone the vet. You may offer the cat a small amount of water.
Wild animals will also suffer in heat. A dish of water placed somewhere accessible will help them survive the heat and may save their lives.
Remember – don’t leave your pets in the car on a hot day.
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Avoiding heatwave blazes – common sense five point guidance
- Do not have bonfires of any size during hot weather – especially if you live in rural areas.
- Clear away all picnic rubbish
- Do not throw cigarette ends out of car windows
- Do not have barbecues in open countryside
- Report fly tipping to your local authority as soon as possible
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