Before you go skipping out the door to enjoy it though, make sure you’re prepared. Every year the NHS sees an influx of heat-related illnesses that could have been easily avoided. Heat exhaustion, sunburn and dehydration are all preventable with a bit of pre-planning. It’ll ensure you have more time enjoying the summer and less time feeling rough. Plus, you could free up NHS services for people that really need them. Win-win!
PROTECT YOUR SKIN
Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer and it doesn’t just happen on holiday – you can burn in the UK, even when it’s cloudy. There is no safe way to get a tan, and a tan doesn’t protect your skin from the sun’s harmful effects.
Sun safety tips:
- spend time in the shade, especially between 11am and 3pm when the sun is strongest
- Cover up with loose clothes, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Take extra care with children – their skin is much more sensitive and children under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight
- Use a sunscreen with a protection level of at least SPF15. Use it generously and reapply regularly
Also, keep an eye out for changes to your skin, including:
- A new mole, growth or lump
- Any moles, freckles or patches of skin that change in size, shape or colour
Remember to wear sun screen (at least factor 15 – anything lower and you’re basically not wearing anything) and keep topping it up throughout the day. The sun is hottest between 11am and 3pm during the summer, so while it’s tempting to strip down to your swimwear and soak up those rays, you’re more at risk of sunburn and heatstroke. Try to stay somewhere shady and cool during this period, or that you’re only in the sun for short bursts. It doesn’t hurt to wear a hat and sunglasses too to protect your head and eyes (check that your sunnies have UV protection).
Report any changes to your doctor as soon as possible. Skin cancer is much easier to treat if it’s found early.
Babies, kids and older people are more at risk from dehydration, so make sure you’re looking out for them, too.
You get dehydrated when your body loses more liquid than you putting into it – for instance if you’re exercising or spend too long in the sun without drinking. You can also get dehydration if you’ve been sick or have diarrhoea, or if you’ve drunk too much alcohol (BBQs, right?).
It’s pretty basic advice for this one – just keep drinking! Water, that is. If you drink enough during the day you should be fine, but if you think you’re dehydrated start with small sips and then gradually drink more until you’re feeling better and your pee is a more healthy, pale colour. Alcohol and sugary drinks aren’t great for rehydration, so you’re best off sticking to water or squash.
Kids babies and older people can get dehydrated more easily, so keep an eye on them and make sure they’re getting enough fluids.
The NHS website has some great advice on dehydration, and what to do if your symptoms get more serious.
DEALING WITH HAYFEVER
Symptoms of hay fever
Your symptoms will vary in severity depending on the weather conditions and pollen count, and they include:
- frequent sneezing
- runny or blocked nose
- itchy, red or watery eyes
- an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
- cough, caused by postnasal drip
INSECT BITES / STINGS
If you’re worried about a bite or a sting, or you think it might be infected or you start to feel unwell, give NHS 111 a call and explain your symptoms – they’ll be able to give you some advice. As always, if you’re really worried or you or someone you’re with starts to have a severe reaction to a bite or sting, call 999 right away.
It’s also a good idea to check whether the local water in your destination country is safe to drink – if you’re not sure stick to bottled stuff, and bear in mind that the water used to make ice and to wash fruit and veg might not have come from a bottle!
Your pharmacist will be able to give you advice on first aid stuff you should take with you when travelling, such as paracetamol, rehydration sachets and insect repellent. You should also check out the NHS website for more great advice on what to do before you travel, and how to stay healthy while you’re away.
If you have regular prescription medicines, make sure you have enough to cover the duration of your trip, and that you give your pharmacy enough notice to prepare it for you before you travel. Speak to your GP beforehand if you’re going to need extra to cover your trip.
SPRAINS AND STRAINS
This summer, you may be inspired to take up a new sport or leisure activity. Here's a few simple steps to avoid a sprain or strain.
We all know that exercise has many health benefits. It can help you live longer and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50%. But if you haven’t exercised in a while you should take things gently to start with. Most sports injuries happen because a person does too much too quickly, aren’t properly prepared or use poor techniques.
So how do you avoid injury and still get the daily exercise you need to lead a healthy lifestyle? Well, here are a few simple things that can help.
- When you start a new sport or exercise for the first time your muscles aren’t used to the physical stresses involved which can lead to sprains and strains. So, make sure you start slowly and gradually build up your activity over time.
- It helps to wear footwear that supports and protects your feet and ankles and is appropriate for the type of activity you're doing. Always make sure your footwear is in good condition and avoid running or walking on uneven surfaces if possible.
- Signs of a sprain or strain can include pain, swelling, bruising and tenderness around a joint or in a muscle. You may also find it difficult to move the affected body part.
Remember soft tissue injuries can take up to four weeks to heal so it’s important to be patient. If the symptoms haven’t improved you can call NHS111 - available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can offer advice about what to do or where to go. All you have to do is dial 111 to talk to the NHS.
SEVEN SURVIVAL TIPS FOR FESTIVAL GOERS
Festivals goers are susceptible to dehydration due to dancing all day and night, sunny weather and alcohol consumption. Dehydration can leave you feeling thirsty, dizzy and tired.
You can easily combat these symptoms by ensuring that you drink plenty of water and often, it will also give you more energy to party on! Keep a refillable water bottle on you to help keep yourself hydrated when on the go.
2. Heavy drinking
Festival are all about fun and many will be looking forward to enjoying a drink with friends. Drinking large amounts in a short period you can increase your risk of accidents, misjudging risky situations and losing self-control.
It’s recommended drinking more slowly, drinking with food and alternating alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks. Drinking plenty of water whilst consuming alcohol will also prevent dehydration, which is what causes many symptoms of a hangover.
3. Sun safety
Don’t forget to take a hat, sunglasses and sun cream to keep you safe from the sun, and spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when the sun is strongest. Apply sun cream regularly and use at least SPF 15 however SPF 50 will give you the best protection.
But don’t be tempted to leave sun essentials behind if the weather’s looking glum – you can still damage unprotected skin even when it’s cloudy!
Staying safe in the sun and drinking plenty of water will also prevent you suffering from heat exhaustion, and in severe cases heat stroke, which can put a strain on your vital organs.
Equally, those sunny days can turn into chilly nights, so don’t forget to pack extra layers to keep you warm when out at night. If you’re camping, keep your tent stocked with warm, dry clothing and blankets as your tent alone may not keep you protected from the cold.
Also, don’t forget to grab those wellies and a raincoat - we all know it has the habit of raining during festival weekends!
5. Clean hands
The chance of picking up a bacterial or viral stomach bug is much higher when around larger numbers of people and using communal facilities. Washing your hands well and regularly with hot soapy water is the most effective way of preventing a stomach bug, but keep anti-bacterial gel on you to avoid being caught out.
Take plenty of your own toilet-roll and wet wipes to reduce your reliance on communal items.
6. Ear plugs
Listening to loud music for any length of time has the potential to damage your hearing, however wearing earplugs while listening to live music can reduce sound levels by between 15 and 35 decibels. They’re widely available at many live music events and should not spoil your enjoyment of the music. Alternatively most pharmacies stock ear plugs too.
7. The medical centre
Find where the medical centre is before you are in a situation in which you need to go. The medical centre is usually centrally located and easily identifiable, however festival stewards will help point you in the right direction.
Remember to take enough of any prescription medication you may need, as the medical centre might not be able to supply you with this.
Make sure you look out for your friends and ensure they are also following these survival tips, and of course - have fun!