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Heatwave: how to be prepared - a doctor's view

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We wait all year for the warmer weather to arrive, but each year we seem to be just as unprepared as the last. As much as we all might feel better with the sun on our faces, hot temperatures bring their own health risks. You just can't win can you?

We have a major problem with vitamin D deficiency, through a lack of sun exposure and yet from now until September my Surgery will be inundated with casualties of excessive heat.

Parents are being advised to take extra care during the hot spell Credit: PA

It's not just the obvious risk of dehydration through not drinking enough water. Warmer weather also increases the risk of breathlessness in those with asthma and COPD, and heart problems in those with excessive weight and a smoking habit.

Add to that the popularity of evening barbecues (and incompletely cooked chicken) and a bottle or two too much of beer or wine, the number of patients with gastrointestinal problems queuing up to be seen on Monday mornings is set to rise.

Older people, often on medication to lower their blood pressure can quickly become dizzy and prone to falls, and the risk of hip fractures and complications is frightening.

So what can we do to avoid these summer ailments? Enjoy the sunshine, of course.

  • But apply high factor sun cream, wear a hat, cover exposed arms and legs
  • Drink plenty of fluids (water) and stay out of direct sunshine during peak hours in the middle of the day.
  • Enjoy family picnics and barbecues, but keep food cool before eating and when appropriate cook food properly, and go easy on alcoholic drinks.
  • Most of all, think twice about exposing young children, or older vulnerable people to extremes of heat, and don't panic.
  • Keep cool and enjoy it.

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