Summer Health Advice - how to protect yourself
A little bit of sunshine is good for us and can lift our spirits – let’s face it, it can often be a welcome change from the heavy downpours and high winds we experience in Wales. There's no clear distinction between the seasons these days, so it’s important that we’re prepared – whatever the weather throws our way.
Heatwaves can happen suddenly – taking us by surprise, so keep a check on the weather forecast. The Meteorological Office (Met Office) has a warning system if a heatwave is likely. Listen out for heatwave warnings on the television or the radio, or check the Met Office website
Drink cool water based drinks throughout the day
- Keep thirst at bay - drinking little and often throughout the day
- Water based drinks and milk are particularly re-hydrating
- Using smaller drinking glasses can – if you’re not a big drinker
- Make sure you’ve got enough food supplies
- Eat as normal - even if you’re not particularly hungry
- Fruit and vegetables contain a lot of water, so can be a cooling, refreshing, and hydrating
- Fruit and salads are high in much needed vitamins, minerals fibre so are great for a good balanced diet
- Wash fruit and veg and store correctly in the fridge or freezer (as instructed on the packaging)
Staying hydrated helps to regulate our body temperature to stop us from over-heating
Top Tip: Always carry a drink with you when out and about. An insulated flask will keep cold drinks cold for longer – much more refreshing and cooling than sipping from a plastic bottle that gets warm in the heat of the sun.
Top safety tip: Speak to your GP or practice nurse if you’re taking medication that affects water retention.
Protect your skin – be burns aware
Ensure your skin isn’t exposed to the sun for long periods, as this can lead to sunburn and make you more susceptible to severe burning and skin cancer.
- Use sunscreen of at least SPF30 (sun protection factor 30) with four or five stars (UVA and UVB)
- Apply sunscreen generously
- Apply as you’re getting dressed in the morning
- Apply again half an hour before going out into the sun
- Reapply at least every two hours and, if you’ve been in water, or sweating reapply when your skin is dry
- Apply it to your ears as well as your face, nose, neck, arms, back of the hands, any bald or thinning patches on your head and any other uncovered part of your body
- Putting your feet up in the garden? Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the soles of your feet
- Avoid spending long periods outside during the hottest time of the day, which is usually from 11am to 3pm
Protect your eyes
- UV rays can cause damage to your eyes, even in cool weather and on a cloudy day, so wear sunglasses that have a CE mark, British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1, UV400 label or a statement that they provide 100 per cent UV (ultraviolet A and B) protection
- Speak to an optician about prescription sunglasses or special shades that fit over or clip onto your ordinary prescription glasses
Wraparound styles offer protection from the front and sides.
Take it easy
- Avoid too much activity, especially at the hottest times of the day
- Save essential chores such as gardening, washing the car and housework for the coolest parts of the day – early morning or late evening.
To cool off
- If you become uncomfortably hot, place your hands in cool water, use a cool flannel to place of the back of your neck, behind your knees and in the folds of your arms
- Place your feet in a bowl of cool water
- Take cool baths or showers
- Keep after sun/moisturisers in the fridge
Keep your home cool
- When inside, try to stay in the coolest parts of your home. It may be an idea to move rooms and sleep in the cooler part of your home
- Help keep the heat out by closing windows, curtains and blinds
- Turn off non-essential items when not in use, lights, and electronic items, such as ipads and kindles can generate heat when plugged in
- Keep windows shut while it’s cooler inside than outside
- Fans can help sweat evaporate but they don’t cool the air itself, so don’t rely on them to keep you well in the heat
- Keep an Age Cymru thermometer card in the commonly used rooms of your home – bedroom and main living room. Place these out of direct sunlight
- Check that your central heating is switched to off and that you know how to work it – during the colder days of summer
Top tip: Summertime is an ideal time to get your boiler and central heating system services – as Gas Safe engineers may not be in such demand
Dressing for the weather – comfort is key
- Light-coloured, light - weight, loose - fitting cotton clothing can help you stay cool in the heat
- Dark colours absorb the light and can make you feel even warmer
- Natural materials helps draw sweat away from your body, which helps to keep you cool
- Wearing cotton pyjamas is cooler than sleeping in the nude
- Wear sandals that fit your feet securely and offer good support – adjustable straps are ideal if your feet are prone to swelling.
Top tips: Wear a broad brimmed hat
Stay in the shade as much as possible
A hat will protect your head, scalp, face, ears and eyes
You and your medication
- If you’re on medication that affects the amount of fluid you’re allowed to drink, get advice from your GP on what to do in hot weather
- Some medications can make the effects of the heat worse – sweating and temperature control or make your skin more sensitive to the sun Talk to your GP or pharmacist about how best to manage this, especially if you’re on a number of different medications and/or have a long-term health condition
- Keep taking your prescribed medication unless advised differently by your pharmacist/GP
- Make sure you've enough medication – if it’s too hot to go out.
- Contact Age Cymru Advice on 0300 303 44 98 or send an email - who can talk you through any extra support such as help with shopping, gardening, home cleaning or simply someone to chat to and check in on you.
Check on older neighbours, relative and friends who live alone to make sure they’re not having difficulties in the heat, as we get older our bodies are less efficient at regulating our temperature.
If they're feeling unwell but the problem is not a medical emergency, call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 or 111 if available in your area (currently available in the following health board areas - Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Hywel Dda and Powys).
You may find our Summer Health Advice leaflet useful, this leaflet has top tips on how to protect yourself in hot weather.