The summer of 2018 was one of the hottest summers in the UK in recent history. While millions of us have been enjoying the sunny weather, a heatwave can present a range of health problems – particularly for children, the elderly and the vulnerable.
Europe was the last hit with a major heatwave in 2003, which was recorded as the hottest summer since 1540. It is estimated that this led to around 70,000 heat-related deaths across the continent.
Here are the 5 health impacts of hot weather and what you can do to ensure you
The unusual weather conditions in the UK this year resulted in a delay to the tree pollen release. The cold spring delayed germination, meaning the warm weather has brought on high pollen counts which, when mixed with high grass pollen counts, has caused misery for hay fever sufferers.
Limiting your exposure to pollen – particularly in your home – can be a big help, says Dr Adrian Morris of the Surrey Allergy Clinic. He told the Daily Telegraph: “Try to keep your home as allergen-free as possible by keeping doors and windows shut, particularly around 11 am and 6 pm when pollen levels tend to peak.”
Using medications and treatments like antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays can help to alleviate your allergies.
Also, consider drying your clothes indoors. Fabric can be a magnet for pollen, so don’t hang laundry outdoors to dry when levels are high.
Extreme heat can present a problem for people prone to heart conditions. This is because a heatwave makes it harder for the body to regulate its core temperature. Hot weather can also put pressure on your heart, as it has to work harder.
Try and keep cool where possible. Drink plenty of water or other sugar-free drinks to keep hydrated, and eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content. Keep your home as cool as you can, wear light-fitting clothes and stay out of the sun in the hottest part of the day. It may also be sensible to avoid physical exertion.
If your body reaches a temperature exceeding 40 degrees Celsius, you can reach a state where your physiological coping mechanisms are insufficient. You may then suffer from hyperthermia — more commonly known as heatstroke.
When you suffer from heat stroke, your body can no longer control its temperature. The side effects can be very serious too, which can range from confusion, disorientation, having fits, and falling unconscious. Left untreated, it can also lead to organ failure and brain damage.
Again, always drink plenty of water and keep in the shade where possible. Stay in the coolest room in your home and close blinds and curtains if necessary. If you feel unwell, the best thing to do is to drink water and go somewhere cool to rest.
If you experience breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, dizziness, weakness or cramps that get worse or persist, you should seek medical advice.
Many people who suffer from migraines say that a change in weather is one of the big triggers for an attack.
There are ways of reducing your chances of a migraine attack. Consultant neurologist Dr Nicholas Silver of the Walton Centre NHS ¬Foundation Trust in Liverpool told the Daily Mirror: “Triggers vary but most people have more than one, so avoid those you can. Common ones include caffeine, wine, stress or relief from stress, skipping meals, dehydration, too little sleep or ¬lie-ins.
“Stop drinking ¬caffeine and eat, drink and sleep ¬regularly. Take your migraine medication as soon as the pain starts but avoid ¬painkillers more than one day a week as these can cause rebound headaches. ¬If ¬migraines are still a problem, ask your GP about preventive drugs.”
If you have eczema, rising temperatures can worsen the itching caused by this skin condition. In addition, the skin is an important part of your temperature-control mechanism and so if you have eczema this function doesn’t work as well.
Keep your temperature as stable as ¬possible, make sure your home is cool, and wear ¬cotton clothes. The National Eczema Society also recommends using emollients twice a day as this can help to keep the skin soft and supple.