sunburnWith several areas around England set to experience increasing 'heatwave' conditions this week, Public Health England is urging people to think how it may impact them.

The Met Office has forecast potential heatwave conditions for parts of the South East, London, the East of England, the East Midlands and West Midlands for this weekend (19-20 July), as it declared a Level 2 Heat-health alert.

This warning is triggered when the Met Office forecasts that there is a 60% or higher chance of temperatures being high enough on at least two consecutive days and the intervening night to have a significant effect on health.

Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection at Public Health England, said: “While many people enjoy hot weather, high temperatures can be dangerous, especially for people who may be particularly vulnerable such as older people, young children and those with serious illnesses.

“The Heatwave Plan, which we published earlier this year, is an important component of overall emergency planning and sets out a series of clear actions that can be taken by healthcare organisations, local authorities, professionals working with vulnerable people, and individuals to help keep people safe during extreme heat.

“To prepare for any type of hot weather this summer, we strongly encourage each locality to consider the actions in this plan and adapt them to their local situation, as a component of wider resilience planning and long-term climate change adaptation arrangements.

“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. Older people 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.”

During hot spells vulnerable groups, such as the older people, feel the acute effects of heat more than others and it’s long been recognised that death rates rise in the early stages of heatwaves.

Further reading: London adapts to changing nature of 'extreme weather'

PHE's Heatwave Plan also points out that it can get uncomfortably hot indoors too especially at night. Because this heatwave period is expected to start on Thursday evening and go into Friday daytime and through until Saturday daytime PHE is stressing the importance of keeping homes cool.

Dr Cosford added: “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. Turn off non-essential lights and electrical items as these generate heat.

“Many members of the Muslim community may be fasting during the current period of Ramadan. During hot weather it’s important to balance food and fluid intake between fasts and especially to drink enough water. The Muslim Council of Britain and the NHS have published lots of useful information for those likely affected during this period.”

PHE's top advice for being sun safe is:
• try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm
• apply sunscreen of at least SPF15 with UVA protection
• wear UV sunglasses, preferably wraparound, to reduce UV exposure to the eyes
• Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes, a hat and light scarf
• drink lots of cool drinks
• look out for others especially vulnerable groups such as older people, young children and babies and those with serious illnesses
• never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals

Local authorities, professionals and community groups are advised to prepare for hot weather by reviewing the Heatwave Plan for England.