The Met Office has issued a level 3 heatwave alert from midday on Tuesday 9 August until 6pm on Saturday 13 August for the southeast of England. Bracknell Forest falls within this warning area with temperatures expected to reach the mid 30s.
Some people, such as older adults, young children and those with long term conditions run a greater risk of serious harm. Therefore, it is important that we all take precautions to stay protected and protect the health of our family and friends.
Please check in on neighbours, family and friends to ensure they are prepared and follow these simple steps to keep safe:
- drink plenty of water
- avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
- have cool baths or showers
- if you have to go out, walk in the shade and apply sunscreen
Keep yourself cool with these top tips from the NHS.
Make sure you also keep an eye on your pets in the heat. Don’t forget that exercising your dog in hot weather or leaving them in a car on a hot day can cause serious health problems or much worse. Find out more on the RSPCA website.
Keeping your home cool
Keeping your living space cool is especially important for those who need to stay at home during the extreme heat.
Try these following measures to help you keep cool:
- shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight and keep windows exposed to the sun closed during the day
- external shutters or shades are very effective, while internal blinds or curtains are less effective - care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains as these can absorb heat
- if possible and safe, open windows at night if it feels cooler outside
- turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment as they generate heat
- during the hottest periods, find the coolest part of your home, outside area or local green space to sit in and make sure you sit in the shade and apply sunscreen
- if going outdoors, use cool spaces considerately
Staying hydrated is very important because our bodies need the right balance of water and electrolytes to help them function properly.
Make sure you:
- avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks as they can dehydrate you
- keep a bottle of water with you during the day and drink from it at regular intervals
- limit fruit juice or smoothies to a combined total of 150ml a day and swap sugary soft drinks for diet, sugar-free or no added sugar varieties - juice and smoothies do count towards your fluid intake but can be high in sugar
Look out for signs of dehydration such as increased thirst, a dry mouth, dark urine or urinating infrequently or small amounts. Serious dehydration needs urgent medical attention.
Keeping children safe
Children cannot control their body temperature as efficiently as adults during hot weather because they do not sweat as much. Because of this, they can be at risk of heated related ill health.
To keep children safe, make sure:
- they avoid taking part in vigorous physical activity on very hot days such as when the temperature is higher than 30°C
- when playing outdoors, they stay in the shade as much as possible
- they wear loose, light-coloured clothing and sunhats with wide brims
- they wear at least factor 15 sunscreen with UVA protection
- they drink plenty of cool water and drink more than usual when conditions are hot
- they are never left unattended in and around paddling pools - place the pool in a shaded area and teach them to take care when getting in and out of the pool
For more information on water safety, visit ROSPA.
Keeping your baby safe in the heat
Keep an eye on your little ones and ensure they are always hydrated.
Babies and infants are particularly vulnerable to dehydration as they have a low body weight, making them very sensitive to fluid loss.
Signs they may be dehydrated include:
- the baby having a sunken soft spot on their head
- the baby having few or no tears when they cry
- the baby having fewer wet nappies
- the baby is drowsy
You should also keep your baby cool and protect them from the sun.
- babies less than six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Their skin contains too little melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their colour, and provides some protection from the sun
- older babies should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible, particularly in the summer and between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest. If you go out when it's hot, attach a parasol or sunshade to your baby's pushchair to keep them out of direct sunlight
- apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to your baby's skin. Make sure the product also protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Many brands produce sunscreen specifically for babies and young children, as these products are less likely to contain additives that might irritate the skin. Apply the sunscreen regularly, particularly if your child is in and out of the sea or paddling pool
- make sure your child wears a sunhat with a wide brim or a long flap at the back to protect their head and neck from the sun
Keep your baby cool at night by:
- closing the windows and blinds or curtains during the day in the room where they sleep
- put a fan in their bedroom to circulate the air, making sure it is out of reach of the baby
- reduce their layers; just a nappy with no bedding is fine in hot weather
- monitor the temperature with a room thermometer
More important tips on keeping your baby safe can be found on the NHS website.
Treating heat related illnesses
If you notice that someone has signs of heat-related illness, you should:
- get them to lie down in a cool place such as a room with air conditioning or a fan or somewhere in the shade
- remove any unnecessary clothing to expose as much of their skin as possible
- cool their skin with cold water - you could use a cool wet sponge or flannel, cool water spray, cold packs around the neck and armpits or wrap them in a cool, wet sheet
- fan their skin while it’s moist as this will help the water to evaporate, which will help their skin to cool down - fans can cause excess dehydration so they should not be aimed directly on the body and will not be enough to keep someone cool at temperatures above 35°C
- get them to drink fluids – ideally water, lower fat milks, or a rehydration treatment
- not give them aspirin or paracetamol – this can put the body under more strain
- carry on taking all other prescribed medicines unless advised not to by a medical professional
- stay with the person until they’re feeling better - most people should start to recover within 30 minutes
What to do when it's an emergency
If a person has improved with the cooling advice above but you still have concerns about them, contact your GP or NHS 111 for advice.
You should call 999 for an ambulance if the person:
- doesn’t respond to the above cooling treatments within 30 minutes
- has severe symptoms such as a loss of consciousness, confusion or seizures
If the person is unconscious, you should place them in the recovery position until help arrives. If they have a seizure, move nearby objects out of the way to prevent injury. You can find out more on the NHS Choices website.
Open water swimming is a great way to exercise and cool down in the summer heat, but you must be aware of potential dangers and swim safely.
You should only ever swim in dedicated swimming areas.
Avoid cooling off in rivers or lakes this summer. Even on a warm summer’s day, the water may be cold enough to cause cold water shock.
The effect on the body of entering water 15°C and below is often underestimated. The shock could lead to a person drowning. Average UK and Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C. Rivers such as the Thames are colder, even in the summer.
If someone falls into the water, call 999 straight away and ask to speak to the fire service and ambulance. If you experience cold water shock, float on your back like a starfish. Stay calm and control your breathing until the effects of the shock have passed.
Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service has some great water safety advice that you should follow.
Risk of wildfires
Grassland is extremely dry in this heat and even a small cigarette butt can destroy whole fields of crops.
Please do not leave bottles or glass in woodland as sunlight shining through glass can start a fire. Simple measures can prevent unnecessary strain on our fire services who are expected to be very busy over the coming week. Please take you litter home and recycle where you can.
Read the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service information on wildfires for more advice.