Friday, 19 July 2013

Level 3 ‘Heatwave’ alert issued for North West

Following up on our earlier post from Lancashire County Council about the heatwave, the Met Office has just announced a Level 3 ‘Heatwave’ alert for the North West, warning we may experience ‘heatwave’ conditions over the next few days.

People are being urged to take action to protect themselves from the possible health effects of hot weather.

The Met Office forecasts there is a 90% probability of heatwave conditions between 9.00am on Friday and 9.00pm on Saturday.

Level 3 alerts are triggered as soon as heatwave threshold temperatures are reached in one or more regions.

Dr Jane Rossini, Director of the Cumbria & Lancashire Public Health England Centre, said: “Everyone can enjoy the sun safely by keeping out of the heat at the hottest time of the day, avoiding sunburn and staying hydrated with plenty of cool drinks. The elderly and those with long-term illnesses are particularly vulnerable to the effects of very hot weather, so it's important to look out for them and keep indoor areas as cool as possible. Even if temperatures do not hit ‘extreme’ levels, Public Health England still advises people to be aware of the health risks of hot weather.”

Health advice for people to follow this weekend includes:

  • Try to keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
  • If you have to go out in the heat, wear sunscreen, walk in the shade and wear a hat and a light scarf.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothing
  • Avoid extreme physical exertion
  • Drink lots of cold drinks and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks
  • Eat cold foods, especially salads and fruit with a high water content
  • To cool yourself down, take a cool shower or bath, sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck
  • 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 you can. Keep a thermometer in your main living and bedrooms to keep a check on the temperature and turn off non-essential lights and electrical items as these generate heat. Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air.

Local authorities, professionals and community groups can prepare for hot weather by reviewing the Heatwave Plan on the PHE website. Health and social care workers should regularly check on vulnerable patients, share sun safety messages, make sure room temperatures are set below 26 degrees and ensure patients have access to cold water and ice.

Dr Rossini added: “It’s also important to remember that this is the month of Ramadan and many members of the Muslim community may be fasting during the daylight hours. However, dehydration is a common and serious risk during hot weather and it’s important to balance food and drink intake between fasts and especially to drink enough water.

“If you start to feel unwell, disorientated or confused, or collapse or faint, advice is to stop fasting and have a drink of water or other fluid. This is especially important for older adults, those with poorly-controlled medical conditions such as low/high blood pressure, diabetes and those who are receiving dialysis treatment.

"The Muslim Council of Britain has confirmed that breaking fast in such conditions is allowable under Islamic law. Also, make sure to check on others in the community who may be at greater risk and keep an eye on children to ensure they are having a safe and healthy Ramadan.”

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “NHS England is closely monitoring performance across urgent and emergency care services across England as the hot weather continues. We can confirm that our A&E departments are very busy, but also that emergency teams are handling this very well, with more than 95% of all patients across England seen, treated and either admitted to hospital or discharged, within four hours of their arrival.

“NHS organisations are working together to enact local heatwave plans, which include putting extra capacity into unscheduled care pathways, and proactively supporting the most vulnerable patients at home. We urge everyone to follow public health advice to reduce the effects of the heat.”

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