- Step 1 - Early warnings
- Step 2 - Be prepared
- Groups at higher risk
- Further guidance
Despite the UK’s chilly reputation, we occasionally experience extreme heat during the summer. A heatwave can be potentially dangerous, particularly for some more vulnerable groups.
Be prepared for a heatwave by taking the following steps to ensure awareness and reduce the effects of a heatwave on yourself, your family and members of your community.
Be aware of the situation. In addition to watching the news and listening to radio updates, to stay informed you could:
- Visit the Met Office website (external link) for updates and weather forecasts
- Social media - emergency updates will be published on our social media channels:
- Make sure you drink plenty of water. Consider purchasing bottled water for your home in case of water supply disruption.
- Make sure you have enough food stored for a few days so you can avoid going out in the sun if necessary.
Be aware of the following advice from Public Health England on protecting health and reducing harm from severe heat and heatwave:
- At the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm) try to stay out of the sun. If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat or light scarf to protect yourself from the sun.
- Take water with you when travelling away from home and drink regularly throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
- Avoid extreme physical activity.
- Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
- Drink plenty of cold drinks and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.
- Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with higher water content.
- Take a cool shower, bath or body wash.
- Sprinkle water over your skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.
- Keeping your living space cool is especially important for infants, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions or who can't look after themselves.
- Place a thermometer in your main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature.
- Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
- Close curtains that receive morning and afternoon sun. However, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat - consider replacing them or putting reflective material in-between them and the window space.
- Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment -they generate heat.
- Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air.
- If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping.
- If temperatures are below 35°C electric fans may provide some relief.
- Consider putting up external shading outside windows.
- Use pale, reflective external paints.
- Have your loft and cavity walls insulated – this keeps the heat in when it is cold and out when it is hot.
- Grow trees and leafy plants near windows to act as natural air-conditioners.
- Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool.
- Make sure babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars.
- Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave
- Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is unwell or further help is needed.
- If you have a health problem:
- Keep medicines below 25°C or in the refrigerator (read the storage instructions on the packaging).
- Seek medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.
- Young trees can suffer in the hot weather too - if you get a chance, please give them a bit of water. Every little helps.
- Try to get help if you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and headache; move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature.
- Drink some water or fruit juice to rehydrate.
- If you start to experience painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen, in many cases after sustained exercise during very hot weather) rest immediately in a cool place and drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes. Medical attention should be sought if heat cramps last more than one hour.
- Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist.
- Pets should be kept inside where it is cooler.
- Small animals are particularly susceptible to heat - if you are unable to bring them indoors, move their cage into the shade. You could also drape their cage with wet towels and provide an ice-pack or frozen water bottle for them to lean against.
- Ensure that there is plenty of fresh, cool water in large containers for all animals. Be sure to provide numerous water sources in case one is spilt.
- If you have a dog, consider filling a paddling pool with water so they can wade in the water to keep cool (hard surface paddling pools are best due to claws).
- Walk dogs during the coolness of the early mornings. You should always check the heat of the tarmac before walking them to ensure they don't burn their paws.
- If your pet seems to be in discomfort, try wetting its feet or dampening its face - this is an option for dogs, cats, ferrets, poultry and caged birds who control their inner temperature through their feet.
People most at risk from the effects of extreme heat are:
- Over 75's
- Young children and babies
- People with chronic conditions or disabilities
- Those living in urban areas or south-facing top flats
- The homeless
- People with alcohol and/or drug dependency
Check on neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves and ensure they have taken the above steps to be prepared.
Hot weather can be a significant cause of ill health and mortality, particularly for vulnerable people if they are unable to adjust to high temperatures without assistance.
Public Health England and NHS England have launched the Heatwave Plan for England (external link). This plan outlines preparedness and response activities.
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