Working in the hot weather
The soaring temperatures are already having an impact on many aspects of everyday and working life. And with predictions of extreme high temperatures to come, we wanted to share some advice and tips that we hope will keep you healthy and safe during this time of extreme heat.
Make sure to regularly check in with your line manager if the heat is affecting you. If you have a medical condition such as asthma, then it’s worth having a chat about things, even if the heat is not impacting you currently.
Also make sure to keep an eye out for colleagues who may be struggling with the heat.
Have consideration for service users who may be adversely affected by conditions. Check in with them, and report any concerns to your line manager.
Consider working to a different pattern if that’s possible. Early mornings are cooler and build in more breaks if you think they are needed. Again, check in with your manager if you think that is impacting on your ability to do your work.
Drink plenty of fluid. It sounds obvious but you need to plan how much you should drink during a day to keep hydrated. You should drink at least a litre of water per day. Aim to fill your bottles at the start of the day and ensure they are within sight and that you drink regularly.
Use an air-conditioned workspace when you can. If you can access an air conditioned workspace this will provide a cooler and better environment than some home office spaces.
Working at home. It’s an old tip but still a good one to let cool air in during the early morning and then closing windows, blinds, curtains and so on to keep the space cooler.
Keep your IT equipment cool. Heat impacts computers, phones and other equipment too. Having IT equipment that fails at a critical moment because of a build-up of heat will only add to your frustrations.
So, if working at home, consider where you site your equipment and if you have a fan then place it somewhere where it can cool both you and the equipment.
Travelling to work. If you have to travel, it may be worth changing times of travel to avoid crowds on public transport or getting stuck in traffic. Whatever your mode of transport, think carefully before you undertake activities and always plan ahead and make sure to take a good supply of water with you to keep hydrated.
Advice for the general public
Stay out of the heat
- Try to stay indoors, especially between midday and 3pm
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activities such as sport, DIY or gardening. If this is not possible, do it during the cooler parts of the day
- Use sunscreens or sun blocks to help prevent sunburn
- Cover up with a t-shirt or other loose-fitting clothes
- Wear a hat to shade your head and sunglasses to protect your eyes
- Drink plenty of water, at least eight glasses a day. Avoid alcohol, tea or coffee as they can make you dehydrated
- Take a cool bath or shower, or splash your face with cold water to cool down
Keep your environment cool
- Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment - they generate heat
- Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house - evaporation helps cool the air
- If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping
- Electric fans may provide some relief, but only use if necessary
- Remain in the coolest parts of the building as much as possible
- Keep rooms shaded and cool by closing blinds and curtains and opening windows
Look out for others
- Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool
- Ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not ledt alone in stationary cars
- Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day if possible
- Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is feeling unwell or further help is needed
If you have a health problem
- Keep medicines below 25°C or in the fridge (read the storage instructions on the packaging)
- Seek medical advice if you suffer from a chronic health condition/take 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 stomach, 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
The following are heat-related illness:
- Heat cramps - caused by dehydration and loss of electrolytes.
- Heat rash - small, red, itchy papules
- Heat oedema – swelling of the joints- mainly in the ankles, due to dehydration, vasodilation, cardiovascular disease and certain medications.
- Heat exhaustion - is more common. It occurs as a result of water or sodium depletion, with non-specific features of malaise, vomiting and circulatory collapse, and is present when the core temperature is between 37ºC and 40ºC. Left untreated, heat exhaustion may evolve into heatstroke.
- Heatstroke - can become a point of no return whereby the body’s thermoregulation mechanism fails. This leads to a medical emergency, with symptoms of confusion; disorientation; convulsions; unconsciousness; hot dry skin; and core body temperature exceeding 40ºC for between 45 minutes and eight hours. It can result in cell death, organ failure, brain damage or death. Heatstroke can be either classical or exertional (e.g. in athletes).
Effective action, taken early, can reduce health risks and impacts.
Advice for those looking after children
Health risks from heat
Children cannot control their body temperature as efficiently as adults during hot weather because they do not sweat as much and so can be at risk of ill-health from heat. Heat- related illness can range from mild heat stress to potentially life-threatening heatstroke. The main risk from heat is dehydration (not having enough water in the body). If sensible precautions are taken children are unlikely to be adversely affected by hot conditions, however, teachers, assistants, school nurses and all child carers should look out for signs of heat stress, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Children suffering from heat stress may seem out of character or show signs of discomfort and irritability (including those listed below for heat exhaustion). These signs will worsen with physical activity and if left untreated can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion vary but include one or more of the following:
- hot, red and dry skin
When the body is exposed to very high temperatures, the mechanism that controls body temperature may stop working. Heatstroke can develop if heat stress or heat exhaustion is left untreated, but it can also occur suddenly and without warning.
Symptoms of heatstroke may include:
- high body temperature – a temperature of or above 40°C (104°F) is a major sign of heatstroke
- red, hot skin and sweating that then suddenly stops
- fast heartbeat
- fast shallow breathing
- confusion/lack of co-ordination
- loss of consciousness
Actions to protect children suffering from heat illness
- The following steps to reduce body temperature should be taken immediately:
- Move the child to as cool a room as possible and encourage them to drink cool water (such as water from a cold tap).
- Cool the child as rapidly as possible, using whatever methods you can. For example, sponge or spray the child with cool (25 to 30°C) water – if available, place cold packs around the neck and armpits, or wrap the child in a cool, wet sheet and assist cooling with a fan.
- Dial 999 to request an ambulance if the person doesn’t respond to the above treatment within 30 minutes.
- If a child loses consciousness, or has a fit, place the child in the recovery position, call 999 immediately and follow the steps above until medical assistance arrives
Children’s susceptibility to high temperatures varies; those who are overweight or who are taking medication may be at increased risk of adverse effects. Children under four years of age are also at increased risk. Some children with disabilities or complex health needs may be more susceptible to temperature extremes. The school nurse, community health practitioner, family health visitor or the child’s specialist health professional may be able to advise on the particular needs of the individual child.
- On very hot days (30oC+), children should not take part in vigorous physical activity
- Children playing outdoors should be encouraged to stay in the shade as much as possible
- Loose, light-coloured clothing should be worn to help children keep cool and hats of a closed construction with wide brims should be worn to avoid sunburn
- Thin clothing or sun cream should be used to protect skin if children are playing or taking lessons outdoors for more than 20 minutes. Choose a sunscreen that is specially formulated for babies and children’s skin as these products are less likely to contain alcohol or fragrances that might irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions
- Children must be provided with plenty of cool water and encouraged to drink more than usual when conditions are hot
- Windows and other ventilation openings should be opened during the cool of early morning or preferably overnight to allow stored heat to escape from the building. Check insurance conditions and the need for security if windows are to be left open overnight
- Windows and other ventilation openings should not be closed, but their openings reduced when the outdoor air becomes warmer than the air indoors. This should help keep rooms cool whilst allowing adequate ventilation
- Use outdoor sun covers/awnings if available, or indoor blinds, but do not let solar shading devices block ventilation openings or windows
- Keep the use of electric lighting to a minimum
- All electrical equipment, including computers, monitors and printers should be switched off when not in use and should not be left in ‘standby mode’. Electrical equipment, when left on, or in ‘standby’ mode generates heat
The following advice information is available to download: