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Heat health

Whilst many of us enjoy the hot weather, when it is too hot, it can cause risks to people’s health and make them become unwell.

Those who are elderly, live on their own or have serious or long-term illness, as well as babies and the very young, are most at risk during heatwaves therefore it is important you know what to do when one happens.

That’s why we have created our Heat Health page, which brings together local advice, top tips and guidance so you have all the information you need, in one place, to stay safe and healthy during the hotter weather.

On this page you will find lots of information on looking after yourself and those around you during the hotter weather - from staying hydrated, to sun safety and keeping food hygienic.

So look through our advice and top tips below and, where needed, reach out to our services to find out more or sign up for the support on offer.

Our hot weather checklist

Not drinking enough water is a common risk during the hotter weather. It is so important you stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Water is the best option but, low fat milks, tea, coffee, fruit juice, smoothies and sugar free drinks all count too. Remember - Don’t drink too much alcohol as this can dehydrate you.

Try to limit how much alcohol you consume particularly whilst the weather is very hot. If you do drink alcohol, have a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks to keep hydrated.

Hay Fever affects many of us and is an allergic reaction to environmental allergens such as dust, moulds and pollen, typically when it comes into contact with the mouth, nose, eyes or throat. Pollen is a fine powder from plants that circulates in the air and tends to be worse between March and September due to the warm, humid and windy weather.

Symptoms of Hay Fever may include: 

  • sneezing and coughing
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • itchy, red, or watery eyes
  • itchy throat, mouth, nose, and ears
  • loss of smell
  • pain around your temples and forehead
  • headache
  • earache
  • feeling tired

The hot weather can also affect people who suffer with asthma. Asthma is a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing. It affects the lower airways and symptoms can include:

  • a tight feeling in your chest
  • be short of breath
  • wheezing and coughing

You can help relieve the symptoms of Hay Fever and Asthma during the hot weather by:

  • wearing wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
  • shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash any pollen off
  • stay indoors where possible
  • keep doors and windows shut as much as possible
  • vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
  • check the pollen forecast for your area Pollen forecast

If you are looking for further advice, please visit your local pharmacy first as they can provide information and help with any treatments such as antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays.

Seek medical advice from your GP if your symptoms do not improve.

Eat safely

When we have higher temperatures this can mean a higher risk of food poisoning if food is not prepared and handled properly, we encourage people to think hard about hygiene, particularly when preparing or eating food outdoors. Barbecues and picnics are staples of British summers but many people put themselves at risk of illness by failing to plan ahead or undercooking food.

  • Keep raw and cooked food away from each other and use separate utensils when cooking
  • There’s a common misconception that burgers are like steaks and can be served with a pink centre, however that simply isn’t true. There is three times as much bacteria in a rare burger compared to a well-cooked one, so don’t risk it. Burgers, sausages and poultry all need to be cooked until they are piping hot and there is no pink meat. For more advice on BBQ’s see the Food Standard Agency webpage: BBQ food safety
  • If you are taking food out for a picnic store food in containers in a cool bag with some ice-packs so it remains cold until it is ready to eat. Try and keep the bag in the shade.
  • Do not leave food out in the sun for long periods and dispose of after 4 hours
  • Take wipes or hand sanitiser with you so you can clean your hands before consuming foods on the go

If you are hosting friends and family see our top tips for catering safely

Disposing of food waste

It is important to get rid of food waste correctly, especially during the hotter months where more bugs are around.

You can do this by:

  • putting food waste in your food caddy instead of your recycling or black bin
  • make sure disposable barbecues are fully cooled before putting them in your waste bin
  • take all litter home with you or use bins provided when enjoying our parks and green spaces

Washing food

Before eating or preparing fresh vegetables or fruit, wash the produce under running tap water to remove any germs or dirt that may be present. If fruit or vegetables have a firm surface such as potatoes, they can be scrubbed with a brush.

Avoiding the hottest times of the day is a must! This is normally between 12 midday and 3pm and is when the sun is at its hottest. It is recommended you stay in the shade during these times, but if you must go out, make sure you use a high factor sunscreen, cover up and wear a hat.

Sun cream, sun cream, sun cream. Always make sure you have applied sun cream before heading out into the sun to help protect your skin from sun damage. If you do get sunburnt or prickly heat, try using a wet sponge with cool water to cool yourself down, take an antihistamine and avoid the sun. For more information on how to ease sunburn or prickly heat visit the NHS website:  

Those who have lots of freckles or moles need to be extra careful in the sun and must keep an eye on any moles or spots that may change shape, size or colour. If you are worried or concerned about a change in a mole, please contact your GP.

You must keep your baby cool and protected from the sun. For babies less than six months old, please keep them out of direct sunlight. For older babies, they should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible, but especially between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its hottest. If you must go out in the sun with your baby, make sure you attach a sunshade to your baby’s pram or ensure they are in the shade. Also make sure your baby has sunscreen on and has a hat to protect their head and neck from sun exposure. Check out NHS website for more information:  Keeping your baby safe in the sun.

Elderly people are more at risk to dehydration due to age, long term health conditions, those living in care homes or alone or those unable to care for themselves. They must drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated, stay in the shade and wear loose clothing to keep themselves cool.

If they reside in a care home setting, the home will put provisions in place to ensure residents stay cool. If you have an elderly relative, friend or neighbour, please do check in on them over the hotter periods to make sure they are okay and staying cool.

People with conditions including cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and those with asthma are more at risk of health complications during hotter periods due to their body having to work harder to keep cool in hotter temperatures. In some cases the worsening of conditions can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, fainting and in some cases can be fatal.   

During the hot weather, avoid or slow down on extreme physical activity. Or, if you are unable to avoid outdoor activity such as sport, DIY or gardening, try to do this in the cooler parts of the day i.e., early morning or evening to avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

As you enjoy the great outdoors and walking in green spaces, consider wearing clothing that covers your skin to make it more difficult for ticks to access the suitable place to bite. The NHS website has lots of information on insect bites and stings and what to do if you are stung or bitten. 

Lyme disease is an infection transmitted by some tick species and can be acquired when bitten by an infected tick.

You may also find some information useful in our Environment health and Emergency planning sections.

Help for people sleeping rough in extreme weather

During periods of severe weather people who are sleeping rough in the West Northamptonshire area will be provided with somewhere safe, warm, and dry to stay through our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).

Anyone known to be at risk of sleeping rough will be contacted and provided with details of how to access the emergency accommodation.