Hot weather health advice from the NHS

With the first heat-health alert for 2023 having been issued by the Met Office and the UK Health Security Agency, the NHS medical director for Suffolk and north east Essex has responded by offering some useful advice to help people keep safe and well.

The national agencies have issued an amber alert for the East of England lasting from 9 a.m. on Friday to 9 a.m. on Monday, with temperatures up to 30 degrees predicted.

Dr Andrew Kelso, who is medical director at the NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, said: “Most advice on staying well during hot weather is common sense, but some people run a greater risk of harm, including older people, babies and young children and people with a serious chronic condition, particularly breathing or heart problems. So please look out for others.

“Dehydration in older people can cause dizziness and light headedness and is a major cause of falls and fractures. Older people often experience a reduced sensation of thirst, meaning they don’t realise they need a drink. This particularly affects those with Alzheimer’s disease or those who have suffered a stroke. Some medicines such as diuretics and laxatives may increase the likelihood of dehydration and those who are incontinent might limit their fluid intake. Preventing dehydration can be life saving.

“Family members and carers should be aware of the symptoms of dehydration which includes sluggishness, confusion, dizziness and dark urine. Don’t rely on an older person telling you they are thirsty, instead ensure they are having a drink at specific times of day whether they are thirsty or not. The recommendation is six to eight cups of fluid each day, which includes tea, coffee, fruit juice and water.”

“When the weather is hot you sweat to cool down, meaning you lose more fluid than usual from your body. This can lead to a drop in blood pressure so your heart beats faster. If you have a heart condition it is important that you keep out of the hot sun, stay hydrated, eat cold foods and avoid too much exertion.”

“Babies less than six months should be kept out of direct sunlight and older infants should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible. Attach a sunshade to your baby’s pushchair, make sure your child wears a sunhat and apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to your baby’s skin.

“And please remember, if you use an asthma inhaler don’t leave it in direct sunlight or somewhere it could get hot, such as a car glove box. This could prevent it working properly.” Other useful advice on staying well in hot weather can be found at the local Suffolk and North East Essex Wellbeing website.