Last updated: 11 August 2023
Next review: 11 August 2024
What residents can do in preparation for hot weather to reduce its impact, who and what to look out for in terms of recognising signs of heat related illness, tips to prevent grass fires and promote safe swimming during the summer, key actions, advice and resources that will help you to stay safe in the hot weather.
Be aware of when hot weather is forecast
The best way we can prepare ourselves for periods of hot weather is knowing when it is forecast. You can do this by regularly checking the weather forecast – you can do this on mobile apps on your phone and by checking the news on the TV, radio, computer etc.
You can also access the Met Office website which gives a detailed, 5-day weather forecast for your area including any hot weather warnings which have been issued.
People at greatest risk from the effects of hot weather
Heat can affect anyone, but some people are at a greater risk of serious harm. These people include:
- Older people, especially those over 75 or those living on their own who are socially isolated or in a care home
- Babies and young children
- Pregnant women
- People living with serious mental health problems
- People on certain medications (for example, medications that control electrolyte balance, thermoregulation or cardiac function, including anticholinergics, vasoconstrictors, antihistamines, drugs that reduce renal function, diuretics, psychoactive drugs and antihypertensives)
- People living with a serious chronic condition, particularly breathing or heart problems, but also those with diabetes, renal insufficiency or Parkinson’s disease
- People who are unable to adapt their behaviour to keep cool, notably those with Alzheimer's, those who have certain disabilities, including those who are bed-bound
- People who already have a high temperature from an infection
- People who have alcohol and/or drug dependency issues
- People who are physically impaired and have issues with mobility
- People who are physically active and who undertake physical work/activity outdoors, like manual workers, athletes, joggers etc.
Rough sleepers/homeless people (those who sleep in shelters as well as outdoors) due to higher rates of chronic disease, smoking, respiratory conditions, substance dependencies and mental illness
Health impacts of hot weather
The main causes of illness and death during a heatwave are respiratory diseases (diseases which affect breathing) and cardiovascular diseases (diseases which affect the heart and blood vessels)
Additionally, there are specific heat-related illnesses including:
- Heat cramps: caused by dehydration and loss of electrolytes, including after exercise
- Heat rash: small, red, itchy papules all over the body
- Heat oedema: swelling, particularly in the ankles, due to dilation of blood vessels and retention of fluid
- Heat syncope: dizziness and fainting, due to dehydration and vasodilation, worsened by cardiovascular disease and certain medications
- Heat exhaustion: which occurs as a result of dehydration, with non-specific symptoms such as malaise, vomiting and circulatory collapse. It occurs when the core body temperature is between 37ºC and 40ºC. Left untreated, heat exhaustion may evolve into heatstroke
- Heatstroke: a more severe illness in which the body’s thermoregulation mechanism fails. Heatstroke is a medical emergency, with symptoms of confusion, disorientation, convulsions, unconsciousness and hot dry skin. It occurs when the core body temperature exceeds 40ºC for over 45 minutes and can result in cell death, organ failure, brain damage or death. Heat stroke can be either classical or exertional (heat stroke that results from strenuous exercise).
Call 999 and seek medical attention if you or someone else has any signs of heatstroke.
What you can do to protect yourself and others against the effects of hot weather
Stay out of the heat:
- Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
- If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and 4 or 5 star ultraviolet A (UVA) protection and wear a hat and light scarf.
- Access cool spaces across the borough
- Avoid extreme physical exertion. If you can’t avoid strenuous outdoor activity, keep it for cooler parts of the day such as early morning or evening
- Wear light, loose‑fitting cotton clothes
Cool yourself down:
- Move to a cooler place such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade
- Remove all unnecessary clothing like a jacket or socks
- Have plenty of cold drinks and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks
- Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high-water content e.g. watermelon, strawberries, melon, peach, pineapple, apples, ice-lollies etc.
- Take a cool shower, bath or body wash
- Sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck
Keep your environment cool:
- 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 or afternoon sun, however, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat – consider replacing 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
- Electric fans may provide some relief where temperatures are below 35°C. Do not use electric fans in rooms where someone has a suspected/confirmed case of COVID-19 as this may help spread COVID-19 droplets in the air
Look out for others:
- Keep an eye on people who live alone, the elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool
- Ensure that babies, children, elderly people and pets 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
- Look out for children in prams or pushchairs in hot weather; keep them in the shade, remove excess clothing, ensure there is adequate air flow and check regularly to ensure they are not overheated
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
If you or others feel unwell:
- 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
- Rest immediately in a cool place if you have painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen, in many cases after sustained exercise during very hot weather), and drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes
- Medical attention is needed if heat cramps last more than one hour
- Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist
When to call 999
Call 999 if you or someone else has any signs of heatstroke, such as:
- Feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water
- Not sweating even while feeling too hot
- A high temperature of 40°C or above
- Fast breathing or shortness of breath
- Feeling confused
- A fit (seizure)
- Loss of consciousness
- Not being responsive
Heatstroke can be very serious if not treated quickly. Put the person in the recovery position if they lose consciousness while you're waiting for help.
If a person has improved after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water but you still have concerns about them, contact your GP or NHS 111 for advice.
Cool spaces are indoor or outdoor areas where people can take respite on hot days. If you do happen to be outside on a hot day, cool spaces can provide a place for you to get out of the sun for a few hours. There are a number of cool spaces across the borough. You can view where these are and the days and times that they are open using the interactive map on the on the Mayor of London website
Currently we have five indoor, cool spaces in the borough which residents can access for free on hot days. Each of these venues are able to offer cooler temperatures than outside due to things like air-conditioning, fans and ventilation systems. All of these venues have drinking water and toilets available to residents, free of charge.
If you are outside on a hot day and you need a rest, head down to one of the following venues to take a break from the heat:
- Walthamstow Library, High St, London, E17 7JN
- Leytonstone Library, 6 Church Ln, Bushwood, London, E11 1HG
- Leyton Library, High Rd, London, E10 5QH
- South Chingford Community Library, 265 Chingford Mount Rd, London, E4 8LP
- Holy Trinity Church, 4 Holloway Rd, London, E11 4LD
Water fountains in Waltham Forest
If you are out and about on a hot day, there are several free water fountains you can use to keep cool and hydrated:
- Blackhorse Road Tube Station
- Chingford Station
- High Road, Leyton (High Street)
- Highams Park Train Station
- Corner of Hoe Street and First Avenue (near Walthamstow Train Station)
- Leytonstone Tube Station
Grass Fire safety
Hot weather also increases the risk of fires. This is due to the sun drying out grass and various other things meaning it can catch alight more easily when exposed to an open flame. As people tend to flock to parks and open spaces during the hot weather, the London Fire Brigade have put together some key pieces of advice to prevent grass fires from happening in your local parks:
- Don’t drop cigarettes or anything that is burning on dry ground.
- Don’t drop cigarettes out of car windows. They may land on dry grass by the roadside.
- Don’t have barbecues in parks and public spaces.
- Do not barbecue on balconies, the wind may carry smouldering ash towards nearby grassland.
- Be aware that children, animals, balls or anything else may knock over barbecues, increasing the risk of grass fires, especially when in busy parks or public spaces
More advice on fire and BBQ safety can be found on the London Fire Brigade website at the top of the page
Summer Water Safety
Drowning accidents are especially high in the summer months, in the last 5 years, 39% of all UK drownings occurred in June, July and August.
The Royal Life Saving Society UK has put together guidance on how to stay safe when swimming which can be accessed at the top of this page. You can also download the Summer Water Swimming Safety Leaflet.
Listed here are a number of additional resources that may be helpful to you. The ‘Keep cool at home’ checklist can be used to identify ways to keep your home cool both in preparation for and in response to hot weather.