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Take action to stay safe as temperatures and demand remain high

23 July 2018

Sun and cloudsSouth East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, (SECAmb), is urging people to be sensible and take appropriate measures to stay safe in the sun.

The Met Office has today (Monday 23 July) issued a heat health watch alert for SECAmb’s region. The level 3 or amber alert is in place until 9am of Friday. More information can be found here: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/heat-health/#?tab=heatHealth

As the hot weather has continued, SECAmb has continued to experience high demand. Across the weekend (21-22 July) the Trust handled in the region of 6,000 999 calls.

Together with the high temperatures, comes the start of the school holidays and an influx of tourists to the region. SECAmb is asking that people take the time to remind themselves of how to keep themselves and others safe in the sun and heat.

The hotter weather brings with it a likely increase in certain calls for the ambulance service. Calls relating to sunburn, dehydration and heat stroke typically increase. High temperatures can also seriously affect people with long-term conditions such as heart conditions or high blood pressure as well as older people and the very young. SECAmb is urging these people and those who look after them to be equally cautious during the hot weather.

Regional Operations Manager, James Pavey said: “The sun is, of course, welcomed by many and we want everyone to enjoy this summer. But we want them to enjoy it with their sun and sensible hats on. We’re urging people to use their common sense, cover up and use sun screen, drink plenty of water and stay out of the sun at the hottest parts of the day in particular.

“The hot spell has seen us experience some very high demand and we’re expecting that to continue. Also, this week has seen the arrival of the school holidays so that, along with the arrival of the tourist season, can lead to further increases in demand.

“Everyone can benefit from following our advice but there some groups in particular whose health can be badly affected by the hotter weather including the very young, older people and anyone with long-term health conditions. If people know of anyone who could be particularly vulnerable, then we’d ask them to check on them.

“Finally, we’re urging people to remember that 999 should only be dialed in the event of a life-threatening or serious emergency. People can also get health advice from dialing NHS 111 or by speaking to their GP or a pharmacist.”

SECAmb tips for staying safe and cool in the sun
• Stay in the shade or indoors. The sun is at its most dangerous between 11am and 3pm. Find shade under umbrellas, trees or canopies. It is worth remembering that the temperature is at least a couple of degrees cooler if you are by water.
• Use sunscreen and cover up. If you can't avoid being out in the sun apply sunscreen (factor 15+) and wear a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses.
• Increase your fluid intake. The normal recommended daily intake of fluid is 2.5 litres or 8 glasses per day. In extreme heat experts recommend you drink more and include a range of different fluids.
• Keep your home cool. Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. Open them when the temperature inside rises, and at night for ventilation.
• Look after the elderly. Older people are more prone to the effects of heat. If you have older relatives or neighbours you can help simply by checking on them and reminding them to drink plenty and often. Also help them to keep their house as cool as possible, using a fan if necessary.
• Protect children. Keep a close eye on young children, who need plenty of fluids. A good way to check if they are drinking enough is that they are passing urine regularly and that it is not too dark. You should check nappies regularly. Babies and the very young must be kept out of the sun.
• Avoid excessive physical exertion. If you are taking physical exercise you need to drink half a litre of fluid at least half an hour beforehand and continue to replenish your fluids after exercising.
• Know the perils of outdoor eating. Warm summer weather is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria so it is especially important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until you are ready to eat them. When barbecuing always make sure you cook meat until it is piping hot, none of it is pink and all juices run clear.
• Be sensible with alcohol. Hot weather speeds up the effects of alcohol so extra care should be taken when drinking. Alcohol will lead to dehydration so make sure that you alternate alcoholic drinks with water or fruit juice.
• Keep cool at work. The office is often the coolest place to be in a heat wave. Ask your boss for air-conditioning or fans and open windows where possible. Keep windows shaded with blinds and if possible move your working position out of direct sunlight. Have plenty of breaks during the day to get cold drinks and cool down.

Remember, heat stroke can kill. It can develop very suddenly and rapidly lead to unconsciousness. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke call 999 immediately.

While waiting for the ambulance you should follow the instructions given to you by the ambulance call taker. The following can also help someone suffering from heat stroke:

• If possible, move the person somewhere cooler.
• Increase ventilation by opening windows or using a fan.
• Cool the patient down as quickly as possible by loosening their clothes, sprinkling them with cold water or wrapping them in a damp sheet
• If they are conscious, give them water or fruit juice to drink
• Do not give them aspirin or paracetamol.

If you need medical advice or treatment you can also talk to a pharmacist, call NHS 111, visit your GP surgery or Minor Injury Unit.

When to call 999:

If you think a patient is suffering from one of the following you must dial 999 for an ambulance:

• heart attack (e.g. chest pain for more than 15 minutes)
• sudden unexplained shortness of breath
• heavy bleeding
• unconsciousness (even if the patient has regained consciousness)
• traumatic back/spinal/neck pain

You should also call for an ambulance if:
• you think the patient's illness or injury is life-threatening
• you think the illness or injury may become worse, or even life-threatening on the way to the hospital
• moving the patient/s without skilled people could cause further injury
• the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel

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