Keep your cool when the sun (eventually) shines

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DOCTOR CALLING: By Dr Kevin Hill

The British summer can be unpredictable - cool one day and warm the next – but when a heat wave strikes it can be unpleasant, even for the healthiest person. But if you have cardiovascular disease – a disease of the heart or blood vessels – the hazy, hot, humid days can make summer utterly unpleasant.

Cardiovascular diseases, also known as CVD, include coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease and aortic disease.

If you or a loved one suffers with CVD – as nearly seven million people in the UK do - it’s important to know how to avoid heat exhaustion or heatstroke in warm weather.

Dr Kevin Hill, Chair of NHS South Lincolnshire CCG said: “During the heat of summer, the body has to use extra effort to try and cool itself down in order to maintain a normal body temperature. This extra energy causes the body to demand more oxygen, fluids and salt. Most healthy people can tolerate these changes without a problem but for people with damaged or weakened hearts it can cause added stress to the heart making it difficult to breathe. However, there are simple things you can do to help you cope in the hot weather.” These include:

* Checking the weather forecast. Regularly check the met office’s weather forecast and Heat-Health watch – www.metoffice.gov.uk – which operates in England from June 1 to September 15 each year. Then plan your activities during times when the weather is not as hot.

* Get support from family and friends. If you live alone, make arrangements with family or friends to check on you regularly during extreme temperatures.

* Plan your day. Plan your day in a way that allows you to stay out of the heat. If possible, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (between 11am and 3pm).

* Protect yourself. The aim is to keep your body cool so make sure you do not burn when you are in the sun – always use a sun screen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.

* Stay hydrated. Drink water regularly during the day and eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit which contain water.

* Stay cool. Stay in the coolest rooms in your home as much as possible. Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than outside of the house. Open them when the temperature inside rises, and close the curtains in rooms that are in the full glare of the sun. Also remember to open windows at night for ventilation. If you are worried about security, only open windows on the first floor, or fit security locks that allow windows to be locked in an open position for ventilation.

* Have regular showers or baths. Splash yourself several times a day with cold water, particularly on your face and the back of your neck.

If you or someone you know feels unwell, get them somewhere cool to rest and give them plenty of fluids to drink.

If you have severe chest pain or breathlessness then you should call 999 immediately. If you have other (less severe) symptoms such as weakness, dizziness or cramps then contact NHS111 for advice. NHS111 is available for advice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Dial 111 and you’ll be put through to the NHS.