Most of us welcome hot weather, but when it’s too hot, there are health risks. During heatwaves, more people than usual get seriously ill or die. If hot weather hits this summer, make sure it does not harm you or anyone you know.
The main risks posed by a heatwave are:
• not drinking enough water (dehydration)
• overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing
• heat exhaustion and heatstroke
A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:
• older people – especially those over 75 and female
• those who live on their own or in a care home
• people who have a serious or long-term illness including heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease or some mental health conditions
• people who are on multiple medicines that may make them more likely to be badly affected by hot weather
• those who may find it hard to keep cool – babies and the very young, the bed bound, those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer’s disease
• people who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places – those who live in a top-floor flat, the homeless or those whose jobs are outside
Keep out of the heat if you can. If you have to go outside, stay in the shade especially between 11am and 3pm, wear sunscreen, a hat and light clothes, and avoid exercise or activity that makes you hotter.
Cool yourself down. Have cold food and drinks, avoid alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks, and have a cool shower or put cool water on your skin or clothes.
Keep your living space cool. Close windows during the day and open them at night when the temperature outside has gone down. Electric fans can help if the temperature is below 35 degrees. Check the temperature of rooms, especially where people at higher risk live and sleep.
For more information visit GOV.UK: Beat the heat: staying safe in hot weather. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hot-weather-and-health-guidance-and-advice
If you or someone else feels unwell with a high temperature during hot weather, it may be heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Find out about the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and when to get help https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/
Advice for adults and children on sunscreen and sun safety in the UK and abroad.
Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. Sunburn does not just happen on holiday. You can burn in the UK, even when it’s cloudy.
There’s no safe or healthy way to get a tan. A tan does not protect your skin from the sun’s harmful effects.
Aim to strike a balance between protecting yourself from the sun and getting enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Sun safety tips
Spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest. In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm from March to October. Please check your destination for their strongest sun times.
Make sure you:
• spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm
• never burn
• cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
• take extra care with children
• use at least factor 30 sunscreen
Do not rely on sunscreen alone to protect yourself from the sun. Wear suitable clothing and spend time in the shade when the sun’s at its hottest.
When buying sunscreen, the label should have:
• a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB
• at least 4-star UVA protection
UVA protection can also be indicated by the letters “UVA” in a circle, which indicates that it meets the EU standard.
Make sure the sunscreen is not past its expiry date.
Do not spend any longer in the sun than you would without sunscreen.
The sun protection factor, or SPF, is a measure of the amount of ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) protection.
SPFs are rated on a scale of 2 to 50+ based on the level of protection they offer, with 50+ offering the strongest form of UVB protection.
The star rating measures the amount of ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) protection. You should see a star rating of up to 5 stars on UK sunscreens. The higher the star rating, the better.
The letters “UVA” inside a circle is a European marking. This means the UVA protection is at least a third of the SPF value and meets EU recommendations.
Sunscreens that offer both UVA and UVB protection are sometimes called broad spectrum.
Most people do not apply enough sunscreen.
As a guide, adults should aim to apply around 6 to 8 teaspoons of sunscreen if you’re covering your entire body.
If sunscreen is applied too thinly, the amount of protection it gives is reduced.
If you’re worried you might not be applying enough SPF30, you could use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.
If you plan to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, sunscreen needs to be applied twice:
• 30 minutes before going out
• just before going out
Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin, including the face, neck and ears, and head if you have thinning or no hair, but a wide-brimmed hat is better.
Sunscreen needs to be reapplied liberally and frequently, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
This includes applying it straight after you have been in water, even if it’s “water resistant”, and after towel drying, sweating or when it may have rubbed off.
It’s also recommended to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, as the sun can dry it off your skin.
Water washes sunscreen off, and the cooling effect of the water can make you think you’re not getting burned. Water also reflects ultraviolet (UV) rays, increasing your exposure.
Use water-resistant sunscreen if it’s likely you’ll sweat or have contact with water.
Sunscreen should be reapplied straight after you have been in water, even if it’s “water resistant”, and after towel drying, sweating or when it may have rubbed off.
Take extra care to protect babies and children. Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.
Children aged under 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.
From March to October in the UK, children should:
• cover up with suitable clothing
• spend time in the shade, particularly from 11am to 3pm
• wear at least SPF30 sunscreen
Apply sunscreen to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet and backs of hands.
To ensure they get enough vitamin D, all children under 5 are advised to take vitamin D supplements.
A day at the beach without proper eye protection can cause a temporary but painful burn to the surface of the eye, similar to sunburn.
Reflected sunlight from snow, sand, concrete and water, and artificial light from sunbeds, is particularly dangerous.
Avoid looking directly at the sun, as this can cause permanent eye damage.
Wear clothes and sunglasses that provide sun protection, such as:
• a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and ears
• a long-sleeved top
• trousers or long skirts in close-weave fabrics that do not allow sunlight through
• sunglasses with wraparound lenses or wide arms with the CE Mark and British Standard Mark 12312-1:2013 E
Sponge sore skin with cool water, then apply soothing aftersun cream or spray, like aloe vera.
Painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, will ease the pain by helping to reduce inflammation caused by sunburn.
Stay out of the sun until all signs of redness have gone.
Find out more about treating sunburn https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sunburn/
Seek medical help if you feel unwell or the skin swells badly or blisters. Stay out of the sun until all signs of redness have gone.
Get tips on preventing and treating heat exhaustion in hot weather https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/
You should take extra care in the sun if you:
• have pale, white or light brown skin
• have freckles or red or fair hair
• tend to burn rather than tan
• have many moles
• have skin problems relating to a medical condition
• are only exposed to intense sun occasionally (for example, while on holiday)
• are in a hot country where the sun is particularly intense
• have a family history of skin cancer
People who spend a lot of time in the sun, whether it’s for work or play, are at increased risk of skin cancer if they do not take the right precautions.
If you have naturally brown or black skin you are less likely to get skin cancer, as darker skin has some protection against UV rays. You may also need more time in sunlight to produce the same amount of vitamin D as people with lighter skin. But you should still avoid burning and take care in the sun as people of all skin tones can get skin cancer.
If you have lots of moles or freckles, your risk of getting skin cancer is higher than average, so take extra care.
Avoid getting caught out by sunburn. Use shade, clothing and a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect yourself.
Keep an eye out for changes to your skin.
Changes to check for include:
• a new mole, growth or lump
• any moles, freckles or patches of skin that change in size, shape or colour
Report these to your doctor as soon as possible. Skin cancer is much easier to treat if it’s found early.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues travel advice on destinations, which includes information on passports, visas, health, safety and security and more.
For advice please visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.