NHS website sees surge in heat exhaustion advice as temperatures sizzle

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When the NHS was established in 1948, the official leaflet sent out to all households spelt out its core principles. "Everyone - rich or poor, man, woman or child - can use it or any part of it," it said.

Visits to the heat exhaustion section of the NHS website have more than tripled in the past week – averaging one visit every six seconds.

Figures released by NHS England, which runs the NHS website, show there were 109,096 visits to the health advice page on heat exhaustion and heatstroke in the last seven days (9 to 15 June), compared with 34,066 the previous week (2 to 8 June).

The number of people seeking heat rash or prickly heat advice has almost doubled, from 34,478 to 67,132 page visits during the same time periods.

Earlier this week, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office extended a heat-health alert across England until 9am on Monday 19 June. A yellow alert is in place pointing to increased health risks for those over the age of 65 or with pre-existing health conditions, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Heat exhaustion does not usually need emergency medical help if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If it turns into heatstroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency.

The hot weather comes as the NHS in many parts of the country has faced high demand for urgent care services this week as well as significant disruption to routine care, with England’s top doctor Professor Sir Stephen Powis asking the public to be sensible in the warm weather and to use services wisely as the health service manages 3 days of industrial action by junior doctors.

To make sure safe care continues to be available for those in life-threatening situations, health service staff have been asked to prioritise emergency and urgent care over some routine appointments and procedures this week. The NHS has urged people who need care to still access the care they need this week – using 999 and A&E in life-threatening emergencies only and using NHS 111 online and other services for non-urgent health needs.

Duncan Burton, NHS England’s Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, said: “We know there is a high risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke during hot weather especially among children, older people and those with long-term conditions like diabetes or heart problems.

“The NHS website has a range of useful information pages aimed at helping people keep themselves and their loved ones safe during hot weather.

“Keeping the body cool and drinking plenty of fluids is vitally important, as well as dressing sensibly, using high-factor sun screen and limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun to avoid the risk of sunburn and to prevent skin cancer.

“With heat exhaustion, it is important to cool the person down, hydrate them and see if their condition improves after 30 minutes. If it doesn’t, we would always advise seeking medical attention by calling 111 or 999 in an emergency.”

The NHS heat exhaustion page offers guidance on checking for the signs of heat exhaustion, which include tiredness, dizziness, feeling sick, and a fast breathing or heartbeat. It also details how to cool someone down, and prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke during hot weather with the following advice:

  • Drink plenty of cold drinks, especially when exercising
  • Take cool baths or showers
  • Wear light-coloured, loose clothing
  • Sprinkle water over skin or clothes
  • Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
  • Avoid excess alcohol
  • Avoid extreme exercise

Advice on treating or preventing heat rash includes keeping skin cool so you do not sweat and irritate the rash, applying something cold (such as a damp cloth or ice pack wrapped in a tea towel), and tapping or patting the rash instead of scratching it.

The NHS website is the UK’s biggest health website with an estimated 2.6 million visits a day in 2022 from people seeking information and advice.

It includes over 4,000 pages and provides information about 990 medical conditions as well other health services including applying for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card for healthcare cover abroad, finding a GP, and a pregnancy due date calculator.

For more information visit the heat exhaustion and heatstroke or heat rash or prickly heat pages on the NHS website.

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Visits to the heat exhaustion section of the NHS website have more than tripled in the past week – averaging one visit every six seconds.

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