How to behave during a heatwave?

Long-lasting heat may have a negative impact on health of residents. Particularly dangerous heat occurs after cool spring, when human body is not habituated to hot weather.

Overheating may occur even when the temperature is not very high, this is also very likely in case of high relative humidity. Therefore, it is hard to determine what temperature is dangerous since heat tolerance varies from person to person. Basically, it is important to follow recommendations helping to feel more comfortable and avoid serious health problems.

Consider proper outfit:

  • Wear comfortable and breathing clothes;
  • Prefer natural fabrics to synthetic fabrics;
  • Wear light colour clothes since they reflect sun rays;
  • Wear hats or caps, use an umbrella;
  • Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses;
  • Wear open shoes (i.e. sandals) or leather shoes;
  • Use sunscreen with a high SPF (30 SPF and more) at least 30 minutes before going outside.

Less time spent in heat and less physical activities:

  • In hot weather conditions physical works should be done in the early morning or late in the evening;
  • It is advisable not to go in for sports during hot and muggy days, the most dangerous hours start at 11.00 and ends at 17.00;
  • Employers should pay attention to employees working outside: they should be wearing breathing coveralls of natural fabrics, hats or caps;
  • When the weather is hot, activities and movements should be slower than usually. People working outside should reduce workload – the harder the work, the more heat is produced in human body;
  • Employees working outside in hot conditions should be given a break in cool premises, duration and frequency should be estimated according to the employer, yet it is recommended to provide such a break every 1.5 hours;
  • Reduce time spent in a hot environment, avoid direct sun rays, do not fall asleep in sunshine – it might be dangerous for your health;
  • Do not leave the elderly and disabled people, children, animals in a locked vehicle even if all windows are open. Vehicles heat very fast, therefore, people in a vehicle may result in overheating. You should also check whether baby/children’s seat is not too hot so that a child would not have burn wounds;
  • Habituate your body to heat gradually, it is particularly important to elderly and persons who are overweight;
  • Spend more time in cool premises containing ventilators or air conditioners. If your house does not have conditioning, then choose other alternatives to stay – libraries, cinemas, shopping centres etc. It is important that temperature in these premises would be no lower than 18 degrees Celsius;
  • Try to keep cool home environment. Windows may be covered with light colour curtains, roll up curtains or a cloth with aluminium surface reflecting sun rays. During the daytime windows should be closed – you may open windows in the evening, when air temperature is lower;
  • During the daytime, use less electrical devices and lamps since they add more heat;
  • Have a cool shower or bath more often during hot days;
  • If possible, prefer sleeping in a cooler room;
  • If you have heart or vascular problems and diseases, you must be careful about your health. Note that the impact of prescribed medicines may vary during the heat. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor regarding the use of prescribed medicines and its dosage;
  • Elderly people, mothers with babies and people who have heart problems or hypertension, if possible, are advised to leave big cities for a while.

Drink more often than thirst appears:

  • It is better to drink mineralized water without carbon dioxide (i.e. mineral, mineralized or salted water) since human body loses liquids and minerals in sweat;
  • It is advisable to use potassium chloride, magnesium and tomato, citrus fruit or plum juice if you sweat considerably;
  • Do not consume alcohol, drinks containing caffeine, sugar or sweeteners because such drinks induce losing liquids;
  • Do not drink much at once – it is better to drink regularly and a little (every 1-2 hours);
  • If you have already drunk enough liquids, but thirst still remains, it is better to drink lukewarm water, tea, water with lemon juice or drink water by keeping it longer in the mouth so than it would be moistened or simply rinse your throat with water;
  • Drinks with ice cubes do not suppress thirst during the heat. Drinking icy liquids may result in catching cold since it freezes throat and stomach. Thirst comes back very fast and it is more difficult to undergo the heat;
  • If you want to refresh – drink fruit and vegetable juices as well as teas.

Eat in moderation choosing easily digestible food:

  • Eat food which is easy to digest, best choice could be fruits and vegetables;
  • Consume more diet liquid food, including lean dairy products;
  • Avoid high-fat food. 

Heat may result in:

  • sunburn;
  • overheat (heat stroke);
  • sunstroke;
  • hypoxia (oxygen deficiency).

Sunburn prevention:

  • Avoid direct sun rays since it may result in not only as temporary discomfort, but also in failure of skin functions, i.e. less cooling;
  • Use sun protection creams/sprays with a high SPF (30 SPF and more);
  • Habituate your skin to sun rays gradually by prolonging time spent in sunshine;
  • Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses containing UV filters;
  • Cover your head and hair with cap or hat.

Reasons of overheating:

  • High environment temperature (usually 30 and more degrees Celsius);
  • High relative humidity (feels like temperature is higher);
  • Intensive sun heat;
  • Low fluid intake;
  • Long and hard work or intensive activities in suntrap or in hot unaired premises;
  • Human body has not been gradually adapted to heat;
  • Overheating also depends on human age, health and physical condition. Mostly vulnerable group involve children and elderly people who may suffer from pain in the area of heart.

Symptoms of overheating:

  • high body temperature (may reach 38-41 degrees Celsius);
  • skin redness and fever (skin is dry, there is no sweat);
  • headache and vertigo, tingle, imbalance, nausea;
  • Strong and fast pulse as well as breathing;
  • Thirst;
  • Drowse, dullness, reluctance to move;
  • Confusion, mental disorder, unclear speech;
  • Convulsion;
  • If such condition prolongs, a person may suffer from brain function restraints, spasms and finally may result in blackout, short-term loss of consciousness or even coma;

If you feel symptoms of overheating or notice that another person suffers from such symptoms, do not leave that person alone and seek for medical assistance.

First aid in case of overheating:

  • If overheating is light, having a cool shower, rubbing with a cold wet towel, drinking cool water or juice and rest can be helpful;
  • If a case is more difficult, take the victim out of hot environment; lay him down in the shade or another cool place, the victim should lay on the back, there should be a pillow or rolled-up clothes under his legs (this position could improve head and heart circulatory system);
  • Cover a victim with a wrap or towel moistened with cool water (37 degrees Celsius);
  • When body temperature goes down to 37.5 degrees Celsius, wet wrap or towel should be changed into dry wrap or towel, as well as give cool drink;
  • It is useful to have a foil blanket which can be found in the first aid kit. Remember that gold side prevents from heat, while silver side is used when the body is cold;
  • If a victim is unconscious, lay him down on one side, ventilate him, do not try to give him drink and take him to the hospital as soon as possible or call emergency number 112;
  • It is important to stay with an overheated person until ambulance arrives.

Symptoms of sunstroke:

  • Headache and vertigo, tingle, flickering in vision;
  • Pale skin, cold sweat, general weakness;
  • Nausea, vomit;
  • Rapid breathing and pulse;
  • High body temperature (may reach 41 degrees Celsius);
  • Lost consciousness, swoon;

If a victim is not provided with the first aid, he may die from oedema.

First aid in case of sunstroke:

  • Immediately take the victim out of hot environment to rest in a shade or a cool place;
  • Lay the victim down so that his head stays a little raised or help him sit;
  • Unbutton clothes, particularly pay attention to collar;
  • Use fan or another appropriate device in order to cool the victim;
  • Sprinkle or moisten face with water;
  • Put cool compress on the head, if possible, ice could be useful;
  • The victim may be provided with a cool drink;
  • If the victim feels nauseous, give him sour drink (for example: water with lemon juice);
  • If the victim loses consciousness, lay him down on side, ventilate, do not try to give him drink and immediately take him to the hospital.

Hypoxia (oxygen deficiency):

  • Major symptoms of hypoxia – hard breathing and headache;
  • Preventing hypoxia – avoid going outside during peak heat hours (from 11.00 to 17.00);
  • Negative effects of hypoxia are strengthened by increased air pollution.

Heat mostly affects vulnerable groups, such as babies and children (up to 4 years old) as well as elderly people (particularly older than 65 years old), obese people, people working hard physically and people who are sick (severe chronic illnesses, endocrine, renal, cardiac and vascular diseases):

  • Elderly people are in high risk of dying because of overheating;
  • Young people may suffer from overheating or heatwave because of physical activities in hot environment, i.e. in most cases it involves sportsmen, soldiers during the exercise, builders and road menders, who work outdoors;
  • During hot weather people may suffer from arrhythmia and high blood pressure, therefore, heat is dangerous for persons with diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular, respiratory or psychic problems and diseases;
  • Human body loses a great amount of fluid, therefore, blood thickness increase which results in thrombosis and hypertension. In worse scenario it may turn into myocardial infarct or stroke;
  • Having problems with heart, lungs, neural system or have skin diseases, it is very dangerous to get into cold water just after being in the sun. 

Immediately call ambulance:

  • If you feel pain in the area of heart, if you start choking or experience weakness;

  • If you sweat heavily and experience spasms (convulsion);

  • If body temperature is 40 and more degrees Celsius, when your skin is hot and wet;

  • If you notice a person, who is confused or unconscious.


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