What to do in a heatwave

What to do in a heatwave

When the weather gets hot, very young people, older people and people with certain health conditions can be particularly at risk.

Heatwave Advice Helpline - 0121 704 8080 - Monday to Friday 9.00am – 5.00pm

Our heatwave advice helpline is open Monday to Friday between 9.00am - 5.00pm throughout the year, which means you can contact us through the week for information about:

  • advice, help and guidance for how to handle hot weather
  • advice for when the weather turns cold

Top tips to stay cool

Below are some tips to keep yourself and others cool and what to do if someone feels unwell:

Stay out of the heat:

  • Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun and don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) especially if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat
  • Take a bottle of water with you when out and about and especially when travelling by car or public transport
  • Wear loose, light coloured, cotton clothing, and a hat if you do go outdoors
  • Spend time in the shade and avoid strenuous physical activity
  • Plan ahead so that you don’t have to go out in extreme heat by making sure you have enough supplies, of food, water and any medications you need. Ask a friend or relative to help you stock up if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat
  • Stay tuned to the weather forecast on the radio or TV, or at the Met Office website

Cool yourself down:

  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool (but not very cold) water, or place a damp cloth on the back of your neck to cool down
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and fruit juice, even if you’re not thirsty. Try to avoid tea, coffee and alcohol
  • Eat normally even though you may not be as hungry, you need a normal diet to replace salt losses from sweating. Try to have more cold foods, such as salads and fruit, as these contain a lot of water

Keep your environment cool:

  • Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment – they generate heat
  • Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool. Try to sleep in the coolest room too
  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. If it’s safe, open them for ventilation when it is cooler
  • Keep rooms cool by keeping curtains closed while it’s hot outside (use light-coloured curtains if possible as metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter)
  • Electric fans may provide some relief, however at temperatures above 35°C they may cause dehydration. The advice is not to aim the fan directly on the body and to have regular drinks

Look out for others:

  • Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves every day during a heatwave. Make sure they have supplies of food, water and their normal medication
  • Ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars

Seek advice if you have any concerns:

  • People with heart problems, breathing difficulties or serious illnesses may find their symptoms become worse in hot weather, so make sure you have enough medicines in stock and take extra care to keep cool. Contact your GP if your symptoms become worse
  • Contact your doctor, a pharmacist or NHS 111 if you are worried about your health or someone else’s health during a heatwave, especially if you are taking medication, if you feel unwell or have any unusual symptoms

Take extra care with food in hot weather:

When it’s hot, bacteria on food can multiply very quickly, which increases the risk of food poisoning. So, it’s important to make sure food is:

  • kept in cooler bags when taking it home from the supermarket or out for a picnic
  • Don’t leave food in hot cars and put in the fridge as soon as you get home - the temperature of the fridge should be between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius
  • kept out of the sun
  • only out of the fridge for the shortest time possible – no more than a couple of hours

Check others and plan in advance

When it becomes extremely hot, (with an average temperature of 30°Celsius during the day and 15°Celsius at night), the weather can start to cause serious issues for some people, particularly those who are:

  • over 75 years of age
  • very young
  • experiencing certain physical or mental health conditions
  • taking certain medicines which effect the skin
  • homeless
  • living in poor conditions
  • misusing alcohol or drugs
  • working in physically demanding jobs
  • active with vigorous leisure activities and fitness regimes

Planning for the hot weather makes sense - such as ensuring you have enough food and drink at home. Ensuring your medicines are in good supply is very important too.

Keeping an eye on the local weather forecasts and news reports during hot weather is also sensible. Popular websites for this include the -

It is also good to check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who you think may struggle at times of high temperatures.

If you or a friend experience difficulties with the heat, it is important to go somewhere cool to rest and have plenty of fluids to drink.

You should seek medical attention or call NHS 111 if you experience symptoms such as -

  • breathlessness
  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • cramps
  • dizziness
  • weakness

Protection from the sun

While a few moments in the sun are essential to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D, overexposure should be avoided. Wearing sunscreen, hats and scarves while you are in the sun will help.

But the sun is very strong and can cause sunburn very quickly and without warning.

Sunlight can also continue to damage the skin and increase the risk of cancer even when you have moved indoors too. It is important you do everything you can to stay safe from Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, including -

  • using sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 and good ultraviolet protection on both bare and covered skin at all times
  • sun protection factor is commonly labelled as SPF on sun products
  • ultraviolet is commonly labelled as UV on sun products
  • staying in the shade as often as possible
  • if going indoors is not possible, umbrellas and trees can offer good shade
  • wearing sunglasses which are labelled with
  • the CE mark
  • the British Standard BS EN 1836:1997 mark
  • an ultraviolet (or UV) 400 label or state they offer 100% UV protection

The number of people living in the UK with malignant melanoma (a rare and serious type of skin cancer) has risen over the last 30 years and today there are now over 10,000 cases.

Today, we also know that:

  • the most common place to get sunburnt is on the face
  • the arms, shoulders and neck are the next most common areas to be sunburnt
  • if you’re fair skinned, red-haired or have light-coloured eyes you’re more likely to suffer sun burn
  • too much sunlight causes premature ageing

If you are worried about a mole, or the level of sun you have been exposed to, you should go to your GP immediately.

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Useful links to stay safe in the sun