Heatwave advice

24 June 2010, 14:01 | Updated: 24 June 2010, 14:13

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAmb) is urging people to take appropriate precautions with temperatures predicted to remain high in the coming days.


Temperatures have been predicted to rise to close to 30 degrees in some parts of the region. The high temperatures, coupled with England’s World Cup clash with Germany on Sunday afternoon, means the Trust is expecting the number of calls it receives to be high, especially while the hot weather continues.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week (21-22 June), SECAmb received more than 300 more 999 calls than the same days the previous week.

During hot weather, SECAmb typically sees an increase in calls relating to sunburn, dehydration and heat stroke, although many of these calls can be avoided if some simple precautions are taken.

High temperatures can also seriously affect people with long-term conditions such as heart conditions or high blood pressure. SECAmb is urging these people to be equally cautious during the hot weather.

Head of Emergency Preparedness at SECAmb Andy Parr said: “During periods of high temperatures we are called to incidents relating to conditions you’d expect such as dehydration, heat stroke and incidents around water – but high temperatures can also exacerbate some pre-existing medical conditions.

“The elderly and people suffering from high blood pressure, breathing difficulties and heart conditions for example, as well as pregnant woman and babies should all be especially careful.

“With England also playing this weekend, and hopefully in the weeks to come, supporters should be very careful if they’re consuming alcohol in the hot weather and make sure they also drink plenty of water. We’ve experienced an increase in calls when the England games have been on and coupled with the high temperatures we’re asking people to enjoy themselves but to be sensible at the same time.”

By following the simple measures below the public can potentially avoid the need to call an ambulance.

  • Stay in the shade or indoors. The sun is at its most dangerous between 11am and 3pm. Find shade under umbrellas, trees or canopies. It is worth remembering that the temperature is at least a couple of degrees cooler if you are by water.
  • Use sunscreen and cover up. If you can't avoid being out in the sun apply sunscreen (factor 15+) and wear a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses.
  • Increase your fluid intake. The normal recommended daily intake of fluid is 2.5 litres or 8 glasses per day. In extreme heat experts recommend you drink more and include a range of different fluids.
  • Keep your home cool. Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. Open them when the temperature inside rises, and at night for ventilation.
  • Look after the elderly. Older people are more prone to the effects of heat. If you have older relatives or neighbours you can help simply by checking on them and reminding them to drink plenty and often. Also help them to keep their house as cool as possible, using a fan if necessary.
  • Protect children. Keep a close eye on young children, who need plenty of fluids. A good way to check if they are drinking enough is that they are passing urine regularly and that it is not too dark. You should check nappies regularly. Babies and the very young must be kept out of the sun.
  • Avoid excessive physical exertion. If you are taking physical exercise you need to drink half a litre of fluid at least half an hour beforehand and continue to replenish your fluids after exercising.
  • Know the perils of outdoor eating. Warm summer weather is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria so it is especially important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until you are ready to eat them. When barbecuing always make sure you cook meat until it is piping hot, none of it is pink and all juices run clear.
     - Be sensible with alcohol. Hot weather speeds up the effects of alcohol so extra care should be taken when drinking. Alcohol will lead to dehydration so make sure that you alternate alcoholic drinks with water or fruit juice.
  • Keep cool at work. The office is often the coolest place to be in a heat wave. Ask your boss for air-conditioning or fans and open windows where possible. Keep windows shaded with blinds and if possible move your working position out of direct sunlight. Have plenty of breaks during the day to get cold drinks and cool down.

Remember, heat stroke can kill. It can develop very suddenly and rapidly lead to unconsciousness. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke call 999 immediately.

While waiting for the ambulance you should follow the instructions given to you by the ambulance call taker. The following can also help someone suffering from heat stroke.

·         If possible, move the person somewhere cooler.

·         Increase ventilation by opening windows or using a fan.

·         Cool the patient down as quickly as possibly by loosening their clothes, sprinkling them with cold water or wrapping them in a damp sheet.

·         If they are conscious, give them water or fruit juice to drink.

·         Do not give them aspirin or paracetamol.

If you need medical advice or treatment you can:

  • Talk to a pharmacist
  • Call NHS Direct (0845 4647) – 24 hours  or visit www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
  • Visit your GP surgery or Minor Injury Unit

For more the latest heatwave guidance from the Department of Health visit www.secamb.nhs.uk/document-library-2/publications