How to stay cool

You are less likely to notice if you feel hot or thirsty and it can take longer to cool down as you get older, so it’s important to take care and watch out for the symptoms of heat-related illness, especially in a heat wave.

Temperatures can sometimes get very high and it can become dangerously hot. The Met Office has a warning system if a heat wave is likely and it’s important to be prepared.

Stay hydrated

It’s essential to stay hydrated in hot weather so you should drink more fluids than normal throughout the day and evening. It’s also a good idea to:

  • limit the amount of caffeine you drink
  • avoid alcohol and drinks that are high in sugar
  • eat cold foods, such as salads and fruit, as they contain water

Symptoms of dehydration can include:

  • dizziness
  • thirst
  • headaches
  • tiredness

Dehydration can lead to urine infections, constipation and kidney stones.

If you’re on medication

Get advice from your GP if you're on medication that affects the amount of fluid you can drink.

Some medication can make your skin more sensitive to the sun or affect your body temperature and your ability to cope in hot weather. Talk to your GP or pharmacist for advice on how to manage this.

Store your medication below 25°or in the fridge. Check the storage instructions on the packaging.

What to wear

It’s important to protect yourself from sunburn and stay cool if you're going outside. You should wear:

  • loose-fitting, light coloured cotton clothes
  • a hat
  • sunglasses with a CE mark, or statement that they provide 100% UV protection – a wraparound design is best
  • high-factor sunscreen, eg SPF 30 or higher

Apply sunscreen half an hour before you go out and then just again before you go in the sun. Reapply it regularly and after you’ve been in water.

Keep cool and plan ahead

The hottest time of day is between 11am and 3pm so avoid doing too much then and save housework or gardening for early morning or late evening.

  • if you’re going out, take a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water with you
  • a cool bath or shower can help to cool you down or just a damp cloth on the back of your neck
  • be prepared - check the Met Office weather forecast and keep a thermometer in a room you use a lot
  • air pollution can be worse during hot weather – keep updated and get health advice from UK-AIR

Around the house

It might be cooler indoors than outside.  You can keep your rooms cooler by closing the windows and pulling the curtains to keep the heat out. You could also:

  • buy a good quality electric fan
  • turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment as they can generate heat
  • try going somewhere that is air-conditioned, such as a local library or cinema

Symptoms to watch out for

The symptoms of heat exhaustion can include:

  • tiredness and weakness
  • feeling and being sick
  • a headache
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • sweating heavily
  • intense thirst
  • muscle cramps
  • a fast pulse
  • a decrease in blood pressure
  • urinating less or having darker urine than usual.

If you have these symptoms, go quickly to a cool place, lie down, drink plenty of water and remove any extra layers of clothing. You can also try to cool your skin, for example using wet flannels.

If you don’t respond to these attempts to cool down within 30 minutes, call 999.

Heatstroke is serious and can develop if heat exhaustion isn’t treated.  More severe symptoms can include:

  • confusion
  • disorientation
  • hyperventilation
  • fits and loss of consciousness

If anyone shows these symptoms, call 999. While waiting for the ambulance, move the person somewhere cool, give them water if they are conscious, and shower their skin with cool water or cover them in damp towels.

Next steps

Read our factsheet Summer Wise for more information.

If you feel unwell, call NHS 111 for advice. The NHS website also has useful information on coping with heat.

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