How to cope with a heatwave

The hot weather's here at last, but do you know how to keep cool in a heatwave and detect heat stroke symptoms?

This year, the Department of Health has published a Heatwave Plan to let people know how to cope with a heatwave and what to watch out for, including information on heat exhaustion and heat stroke symptoms.

Why can heat be dangerous?

Excessive heat can:

  • Increase heart problems
  • Raise breathing problems
  • Cause heatstroke

Read more: How to get to sleep on a hot summer night

What makes a heatwave?

There are four different heatwave levels.

Level 1 – Green: This is the ‘normal’ state, where there is no more than a 50% risk of heatwave. People should just be aware of the risks of heat and the need to keep cool.

Level 2 – Amber: Alert and readiness – there’s now a 60% chance that ‘threshold’ temperatures will be reached for 2 or more days. ‘Threshold’ temperatures vary from region to region around the country, but are around 30°C during the day and 15°C at night.

Level 3 – Red: Heatwave action – this stage is reached when threshold temperatures have been reached in at least one region around the country.

Level 4 – Red Emergency: When the Heatwave Plan hits 4, the situation is extremely serious – this is when the heatwave is so severe that it’s likely to cause power or water shortages.

how to cope with a heatwave

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Practical tips on how to cope with a heatwave

  • Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves
  • Shut and shade windows when it’s hotter outside and open them for ventilation when it’s cooler outside
  • If you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat, avoid going out between 11am-3pm
  • Drink cold drinks like water or fruit juice regularly and avoid tea, coffee and alcohol
  • Stay tuned to the weather forecast and plan ahead with supplies
  • Keep plenty of water to hand and stay in the shade where possible
  • Identify the coolest room in the house

Read more: How to keep cool when pregnant

How to cope with a heatwave for homeowners

Homeowners can take other practical steps to stay cool during the summer, including:

  • Shading south and west-facing windows
  • Painting buildings and surrounding walls white to reflect heat
  • Planting small trees and shrubs around buildings
  • Replacing metal blinds with curtains with white linings to reflect heat outwards where possible.

How to recognise heat exhaustion or heatstroke in people and what to do if someone you know is suffering.

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat Exhaustion symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Pale skin
  • High temperature

What to do when heat exhaustion symptoms appear

  • Move somewhere cool
  • Drink plenty of water or fruit juice
  • Take a lukewarm shower or sponge yourself with cold water

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Heat stroke symptoms to look out for:

Heat stroke symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Intense thirst
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Hot, red and dry skin
  • Sudden rise in temperature
  • Aggression, confusion, convulsions or loss of consciousness

What to do when when heat stroke symptoms appear

  • Call 999

While waiting for the ambulance:

  • Move the person somewhere cooler
  • Loosen clothes and sprinkle them with cool water, or use a damp sheet
  • If conscious, give them water
  • Do not give them paracetamol or aspirin