Heatwave warning see visits to NHS heat exhaustion advice page rise 552%

Rising temperatures have led to a surge in people seeking heat exhaustion advice from the NHS website this week – with visits peaking at one every eight seconds on Thursday. 

Figures released by NHS England, which runs the NHS website, show there were 32,130 visits to the health advice page on heat exhaustion and heatstroke from Sunday to Thursday this week (3 to 7 September) compared with 4,928 for the same period last week (27 to 31 August) – an increase of 552%.

With temperatures up to 33⁰C expected to continue over the weekend, the UK Health Security Agency, which provides alerts for the health and social care sector in England, has issued an Amber Heat Health Alert across most of the country until 9pm on Sunday 10 September.

The warning highlights increased risks for those more vulnerable to heat including people over the age of 65 or with pre-existing health conditions, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Heat exhaustion does not usually need emergency medical help if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If it turns into heatstroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency.

Dame Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said:

“We know there is a high risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke during hot weather especially among children, older people and those with long-term conditions like diabetes or heart problems so it is a good idea to check on loved ones, friends and neighbours.

“The NHS website has a range of useful information pages aimed at helping people keep themselves and their loved ones safe during hot weather.

“Keeping the body cool and drinking plenty of fluids is vitally important, as well as dressing sensibly. We also advise using high-factor sun screen and limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun to avoid the risk of sunburn and to prevent skin cancer.”

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion they need to be cooled down and given fluids. If their condition doesn’t start to improve after 30 minutes, seek medical attention by calling 111 or 999 in an emergency.

The NHS heat exhaustion page offers guidance on checking for the signs of heat exhaustion, which include tiredness, dizziness, feeling sick, and a fast breathing or heartbeat. It also details how to cool someone down, and prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke during hot weather with the following advice:

  • Drink plenty of cold drinks, especially when exercising
  • Take cool baths or showers
  • Wear light-coloured, loose clothing
  • Sprinkle water over skin or clothes
  • Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
  • Avoid excess alcohol
  • Avoid extreme exercise

The NHS website is the UK’s biggest health website with an estimated 2.6 million visits a day in 2022 from people seeking information and advice.

It includes over 4,000 pages and provides information about 990 medical conditions as well other health services including applying for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card for healthcare cover abroad, finding a GP, and a pregnancy due date calculator.

For more information visit the heat exhaustion and heatstroke page on the NHS website.

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