With hot weather forecast across much of its region this week, South East Coast Ambulance Service, (SECAmb), is reminding people to take additional care and precautions to stay safe in the sun.
Temperatures are expected to reach 30 degrees in some parts of the south east. While this will be welcomed by many, it can bring with it an increase in certain calls for the ambulance service.
Calls relating to dehydration and heat stroke typically increase, and higher temperatures can also seriously affect people with long-term health conditions such as heart conditions or high blood pressure. Increased temperatures can also adversely affect older people and the very young. These groups, and those who care for them, are urged to take particular care during the hot weather.
Those who are able to enjoy the sun are urged to be sensible and stick to rules regarding social distancing to control the spread of COVID-19.
SECAmb Executive Director of Operations, Joe Garcia, said: “For most, an increase in temperature is welcomed but we want people to realise the impact this can have on our service. We need the public to help us be available for those who really need us and may see an existing health condition exacerbated by the hotter days. We are asking people to be sensible and not place unnecessary additional pressure on our service as we are already having to manage additional pressures as part of our response to the pandemic.
“Of course, we want people to enjoy the sun if they can but we also need people to use their common sense. This means covering up and using sun screen, drinking plenty of water and following the latest rules around social distancing.
People are also reminded to make use of speaking to GP, pharmacies or NHS 111 for advice and to only dial 999 when facing an emergency.
Joe added: “I would also like to thank all our staff and volunteers for everything they are doing. Responding to patients at this time, especially in warmer weather wearing PPE is hard work and challenging in the heat. I am extremely proud of the way everyone, in whatever role they are in, has risen to the ongoing challenge.”
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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.
• Use sunscreen and cover up. If you can’t avoid being out in the sun apply a high-factor sunscreen 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
• Act safely around water and follow lifeguard advice. 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 during and after exercising
• 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
• 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
• Keep cool if you’re 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 listen carefully to the call handler and follow the instructions given to you. 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
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
• the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel