What are the signs of heatstroke?
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According to the Met Office, “extreme” heat is expected to hit southeast England on Sunday, while a red warning was issued across various areas of the country, including London and Manchester, for Monday and Tuesday for the first time. In the West Midlands, peak temperatures could potentially pose a “danger to life”, the forecasters said.
Dr Nithya Anandan, a senior consultant psychiatrist, said the “whole population” should take precautions while the heatwave lasts.
However, people who struggle with their mental health must be extra wary, as they are more likely to suffer from heatstroke, which is usually the result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures.
Young children, those over 65 and anyone with pre-existing health conditions should watch out, too.
While care must be taken to prevent physical harm, protecting one’s emotional stability in periods of heat is equally important, the medical expert said, adding that “aggressive” behaviour is quite common on particularly hot days.
Dr Anandan told Express.co.uk: “In general, there is a link between extreme weather and restlessness and irritability, with both of these increasing for those already suffering with existing illnesses.
“Extreme heat can also be linked to aggression, hence the term ‘hot-headed’.”
“Sunshine and warmth,” she added, aren’t always equal to “happiness”.
The founder and medical director of Optimise Healthcare Group warned: “People on medication may see increased side effects from the heat, again highlighting the importance of staying cool and safe in the warm weather.”
Dr Anandan’s advice is in line with that issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which activated its Level 4 heat health alert on Friday.
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Dr Agostinho Sousa, the head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, said: “If you have vulnerable family, friends and neighbours, make sure they are aware of how they can keep themselves protected from the warm weather.”
The Level 4 alert is defined as being reached “when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system”.
The guidelines read: “At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.”
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In England, there were 2,500 excess deaths in the summer of 2020 due to hot weather, and the Red Cross predicts that heat-related deaths in the UK could treble in 30 years.
Met Office forecasters said some of their models predicted maximum temperatures over 40C in parts of the country over the weekend and beyond, but these were “low probability”, adding that temperatures in the mid or high-30s are “looking more likely”.
Yet, the Met said: “Population-wide adverse health effects are likely to be experienced, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to potentially serious illness or danger to life.”
The weather service added that “substantial changes in working practices and daily routines” are likely to be needed, while “delays on roads and road closures” as well as “delays and cancellations to rail and air travel” are possible.
Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge argued the heatwave was “potentially a very serious situation”, highlighting that the red alert had never before needed activating.
Dr Anandan stressed: “Avoid direct sunlight, take cold showers when possible, use sun cream, stay hydrated by drinking more water than usual, avoid alcohol or sugary drinks and check the local news for weather updates.”
She added: “Importantly, remember that your local GP and mental health teams are on hand to help if you are feeling unwell.”
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