THOUSANDS are at risk of deadly heart and breathing problems as the African plume heatwave hits the UK, experts have warned.
The young and elderly are most vulnerable as temperatures are expected to reach sweltering highs of 37C in parts of the UK.
Hay fever and asthma sufferers have been urged to stay indoors, as a "toxic cocktail" of humid weather and soaring pollen levels increase the risk of deadly attacks.
And today, the UK's top nurse warned thousands could end up in hospital as a result of the hot weather.
NHS stats show almost 3,000 people ended up in hospital with heat-related problems last summer – 632 with severe sunburn, 100 cases of heat exhaustion and 223 cases of sun and heat stroke.
Meanwhile, the soaring temperatures can also trigger allergies, with around 3,000 admitted to hospital due to pollen and hay fever and 5,700 stung by wasps, hornets and other insects, last year.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, warned the risk of serious illness is much higher for the elderly, children and young people, and those who already have health conditions including heart and breathing problems.
Intense heat is being brought north from a plume of Saharan air – which is already hitting parts of southern Europe with scorching conditions.
Warnings are in place this week as experts say while daytime temperatures are set to hit highs in the mid-30s – it will "feel like" 44C.
The high temperatures will come with sweltering humidity, prompting Public Health England (PHE) to issue a health warning.
PHE issued a level-2 "alert and readiness" warning – and older people have been advised to not go outside during the hottest part of the days this week.
Look out for vulnerable neighbours
Ms May, said: “Everyone can take simple steps to avoid fun in the sun turning in to a holiday in hospital.
“As millions of families kick off the long summer break, it’s really important to take common sense precautions and follow our NHS top tips like drinking plenty of water, using high-factor sunscreen and taking allergy medicine where it’s needed.
“The NHS will be there always for anyone who needs it, but everyone can help by checking in on vulnerable friends and neighbours, while making use of the free, convenient and helpful phone and online NHS services for minor illnesses, to help frontline staff provide care for those in emergency and serious need.
“People should talk before they walk and join the hundreds of thousands getting fast and free advice on the best course of action for them from the NHS.uk website or 111 phone line.”
While the effects of too much sun can affect anyone, some are more at risk to the danger of hot weather including:
- Young children, babies, and the elderly, especially those over 75;
- People with serious chronic conditions and mobility problems such as Parkinson’s disease or those who have had a stroke
- People on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control.
Ten tips for coping in hot weather
Ms May urged everyone to take care, and encouraged people to keep an eye on their neighbours and relatives.
Her top tips include:
- Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. You can open the windows for ventilation when it is cooler
- If you're vulnerable to the effects of heat, avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (11am and 3pm).
- Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn't possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
- Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol – water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee are good options.
- Listen to alerts on the radio, TV and social media about keeping cool.
- Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
- Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool.
- Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors.
- Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.
Charts from Netweather show high levels of humidity could make temperatures "feel like" 111F (44C), before the end of next week.
The hottest day of the year is expected to fall on Wednesday – as the scorching weather front sweeps the country.
And temperatures will steadily rise throughout the week.
Today it is expected to be peak at 33C and on Wednesday it could reach a whopping 34C, according to The Weather Outlook.
If temperatures stay high in the same spots for three consecutive days, the Met Office deems it a heatwave.
Those with less serious conditions should seek advise from the free NHS 111 phone and online service, and community pharmacists are also on hand to deal with less serious concerns.
The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion – and how to cool someone down
The warning signs include:
- dizziness and confusion
- nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea
- loss of appetite
- excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
- cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
- fast breathing or pulse
- temperature of 38C or above
- being very thirsty
The symptoms are often the same in adults and children, although children may become floppy and sleepy.
If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion they need to be cooled down.
There are four steps you can take:
- Move them to a cool place.
- Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
- Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK.
- Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good too.
Stay with them until they are better.
They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.
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