Take care when the heatwave resumes

27 July 2018

Devon’s heatwave has put elderly people and children in hospital, and NHS clinicians are urging people to take care as temperatures look set to rise again next week.

The county’s hospitals have seen increased attendances and admissions due to dehydration and sunburn. In some cases babies have had to be admitted to hospital because of their burns.

Dr Anne Hicks, emergency medicine consultant at University Hospitals Plymouth, said: “It’s really important that those who can look after themselves do everything they can to prevent the adverse effects of sun and heat.

“It is important to recognise young children and older people need to be encouraged to drink regularly, stay in the shade and do simple things such as keeping the curtains or blinds closed so that it keeps the house cooler.”

With some children aged six months or younger suffering sunburn, RD&E’s consultant dermatologist and clinical lead, Chris Bower, stressed that parents should be extra careful when the summer temperature rises.

He said: “Babies and young children have more sensitive skin and it’s very important to keep them out of direct sunlight.”

The NHS said children of all ages should:  

  • cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long trousers or skirts
  • wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers the face, neck and ears
  • wear sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays 
  • have sunscreen (at least SPF15) and have it reapplied regularly throughout the day 
  • spend time in the shade, such as under a tree or umbrella, or in a sun tent (particularly during the middle of the day) 

Chris Bower added: “When you go in the sun, it’s important to cover your skin with clothing such as a hat, t-shirt and sunglasses. Use a high protection sunscreen of at least SPF 30 which also has a high UVA protection. This should be applied generously and reapplied at least every two hours and after swimming.”

Symptoms of dehydration to be aware of include dark yellow urine, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, tiredness, and having a dry mouth, lips and eyes.

People are advised to drink fluids often, and avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol. Parents with young children parents can use a spoon to make it easier for them to swallow fluids.

Associate Professor Jane Viner, chief nurse at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “While it is lovely to have some good summer weather, the levels of heat we are seeing can affect our health. It is important, particularly for the young and old, to drink enough fluids, as well as eating healthily and taking care not to do too much.

“A campaign launched by the Royal College of Nursing encourages nurses to do just this, but the campaign messages are just as important for everyone. The easy way to remember this is the three Rs – rest, rehydrate and refuel.”

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