A Level 3 heatwave alert means people should be aware of the actions to protect themselves from the possible health effects of hot weather, and social and healthcare services are advised to take specific actions that target high-risk groups.
A Level 3 is triggered as soon as the Met Office confirms there is a 90% chance of heatwave conditions, when temperatures are high enough over threshold levels to have a significant effect on health on at least 2 consecutive days.
Level 3 heatwave alerts were issued in Yorkshire and the Humber and in the South West of England in the past week. Other parts of the country have Level 2 heatwave alerts, meaning ‘be ready’ as there is a 60% chance of heatwave temperatures being reached.
Following this latest Met Office alert, Public Health England (PHE) is continuing to remind people to be aware of the health risks of hot weather.
Key public health messages for staying safe:
- try to keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
- if you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat
- avoid physical exertion
- wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes
- drink plenty of cold drinks
- if you have a health problem, keep medicines below 25 °C or in the refrigerator
- look out for others especially vulnerable groups such as the elderly, young children and babies and those with serious illnesses
- never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
Remember that it can get uncomfortably hot indoors too. Try to keep your bedroom and living space cool, by closing the curtains on windows that receive the sun and opening your windows at cooler times of the day and overnight when safe to do so. Turn off non-essential lights and electrical items as these generate heat.
Health and social care workers in the community, hospitals and care homes are advised to regularly check on vulnerable patients, share sun safety messages, make sure room temperatures are set below 26 °C, ensure patients have access to cold water and ice and that medicines are stored in a cool place.
Dr Angie Bone, Heatwave Plan lead for PHE, said:
In this continued hot weather, it’s important to remember that high temperatures can be dangerous, especially for people who may be vulnerable such as older people, young children and those with serious illnesses.
During very hot weather, pregnant women and people who have chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular, respiratory, renal conditions, diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, may experience discomfort if indoor temperatures are particularly hot and in using public transport. Employers should ensure indoor areas are kept cool and consider allowing these individuals to travel to or from their place of work during cooler, or less busy, times of the day. For those working or exercising outdoors, strenuous physical exertion during the hottest part of the day should be kept to a minimum.
The key message for healthy individuals is to follow public health messages on how to enjoy the sun safely by staying cool, drinking lots of cold fluids and checking on those you know are at risk.
Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection at PHE, said:
Local authorities and the NHS should now be familiar with PHE’s Heatwave Plan, which aims to reduce health risks related to heat. Those looking after schoolchildren or pre-schoolers during the hot spell should ensure they’ve read the guidance in the plan, which includes specific advice on how to keep children safe on very hot days.
While hot weather is enjoyable for most people and uncomfortable for some, sadly experience tells us that exposure to excessive heat can kill, with most cases of illness and death caused by heart and lung disease. Because we are not used to these very hot temperatures in England, it’s important that local plans are in place to reduce the impact of harm from very hot weather.
PHE has a number of surveillance systems it uses to collect data on GP consultations and NHS telephone helpline calls. This system operates throughout the year and is used to see what diseases are circulating and what environmental events, including heatwaves, may be affecting the general population. PHE will continue to monitor this surveillance and will produce regular updates on the impact of the heatwave on health.
Notes to editors:
The Heatwave Plan for England 2013 was published by Public Health England.
See more information about the Heat-Health Watch system from the Met Office.
See more information about sun safety tips from Public Health England.
See information about skin cancer and sun protection from Cancer Research UK.
Further sun safety advice is available from NHS Choices.
About Public Health England
Public Health England is a new executive agency of the Department of Health that took up its full responsibilities on 1 April, 2013. PHE works with national and local government, industry and the NHS to protect and improve the nation’s health and support healthier choices and will be addressing inequalities by focusing on removing barriers to good health. To find out more visit our website www.gov.uk/phe, follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk.
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