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Beat the heat

Staying safe and well during a heatwave

Be prepared

Summer temperatures can be a risk to health and it is important to make sure you and those you care for are suitably hydrated. Dehydration can cause significant health problems and lead to death in extreme cases. Young children and the elderly are most at risk. They may be unaware of becoming overheated and not drinking enough liquids to stay hydrated. Organisations like Age Concern Help the Aged NI have useful tips on how to stay cool in summer.

You can follow some simple guidelines to stay fit and well during a long warm spell:

Keep your house cool

In hot weather, stay inside the coolest rooms in your house as much as possible. These are probably the rooms that get little sun during the day. To help keep all rooms in your house cool, you can:

  • close pale-coloured curtains – closing dark curtains and metal blinds can make rooms hotter
  • keep windows closed when it’s hotter outside than inside, but open them if the room gets too hot
  • open windows at night when the air is cooler, but close ground floor windows when you leave the house or go to bed

Take extra care with food

When it’s hot, bacteria on food can multiply very quickly, which increases the risk of food poisoning. So, it’s important to make sure food is:

  • kept in cooler bags when taking it home from the supermarket or out for a picnic
  • put in the fridge as soon as you get home - the temperature of the fridge should be between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius
  • kept out of the sun
  • only out of the fridge for the shortest time possible – no more than a couple of hours

A picnic on a hot day can be a lovely family activity, here's some information on how to keep your picnic food and leftovers safe

Take care with bins and waste

Bins and waste can attract flies and maggots and start to smell in the heat, so make sure you:

  • move bins out of direct sunlight and keep their lids closed at all times
  • double bag food waste and nappies and squeeze the air out of the top of the bags before you tie them
  • clean bins with disinfectant after they have been emptied – you can pour boiling water over them to kill any maggots
  • recycle as much as possible to reduce waste

For more information about bin and waste collection and recycling, please contact your local council.

Looking after pets

Your pets and other animals can also suffer heatstroke in hot weather if they don’t keep cool. It's easy to forget but hot pavements can burn a dog's paws, if it's too hot to put your hand on, it's too hot for your dog to walk on. Never leave animals inside a car on a hot day and make sure they have:

  • plenty of clean, fresh water to drink
  • a cool and shady place to rest

Contact a vet if you are worried that an animal is suffering from heatstroke. More information about looking after pets in hot weather is on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) website.

Water Safety

During the current spell of warm weather, it can be very tempting to cool off in rivers, canals, ponds, quarries, or lakes.  Cooling off in open water can have deadly consequences. According to RoSPA, during the school holidays, and in particular in hot weather, increasing numbers of children put themselves at risk of drowning. On average 40-50 children drown per year in the UK.

To keep yourself safe, when you are in, on or beside water, always follow the Water Safety Code.

BBQ Safety

During hot and dry weather, avoid bonfires and be extra careful with barbecues. Dry ground in the summer increases the risk of fire. See ‘Fire safety outdoors - barbecues' for advice from RoSPA.

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