Heat waves or long periods of extreme heat can have serious impacts on people's health. It’s important to plan ahead and be prepared this summer.

Heat and health

During extremely hot weather, it is easy to become dehydrated or for your body to overheat.

Exposure to high temperatures can lead to life-threatening heat-related illness such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. More commonly, heat can make existing chronic illness worse. This can have equally serious consequences such as inducing a heart attack in someone who has a heart condition.

Who is at greater risk from heat?

Everyone needs to take care in hot weather but some people are at higher risk of heat illness, including:

  • Older adults, because they are more likely to have chronic disease
  • Pregnant women, because they may be more sensitive to the effects of heat
  • Infants and young children, because they spend more time outdoors engaged in physical activity
  • People who have a chronic or acute illness, like heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease or gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and/or vomiting)
  • People who take certain medications, which can make it more difficult to keep cool during hot weather
  • People working in a hot environment, for example labourers, gardeners, fire fighters
  • People who live alone or are socially isolated

Steps to reduce risk

  • Keep yourself cool
    • Wear loose fitting clothing
    • Stay out of the sun
    • Try to be indoors during the hottest part of the day.
    • Close windows and doors to keep the heat out. Curtains with light-coloured lining can help to reflect heat.
    • Use air conditioning if you have it. Fans can also be effective
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water
    • Avoid alcoholic, hot or sugary drinks including tea and coffee (they can make dehydration worse)
    • If you go outside, carry a bottle of water with you
  • Look out for each other
    • Keep in contact with elderly friends, neighbours and relatives during a heat wave in case you or they need any help.
  • Plan ahead for the heat
    • Keep an eye on the weather forecast
    • Prepare yourself, house or apartment before the heat arrives
    • Know who to call if you need help
    • Follow your doctor’s advice if you have any have any medical conditions

Read more practical tips on keeping healthy in the heat.

Page Updated: Friday 31 January 2020
Contact page owner: Environmental Health