The recent spate of warm weather and longer days is bringing many people outdoors for barbecues, team sports, outdoor activities and more. But long weekends also lead to more trips to urgent care or even A&E.
In fact, local health professionals claim that heat-related illness and injuries can ramp up attendance to emergency departments in the summertime. And they’re usually all preventable by remembering common sense advice or can be treated either at home or with support from your pharmacist or GP.
According to Dr Gavin Lunn, GP and Clinical Lead for Mansfield and Ashfield CCG, demand for appointments does not let up during summer months, with illnesses associated with hot weather and outdoor activity replacing winter pressures.
Local hospitals also experience a high level of demand from patients attending with health issues that can be treated in more appropriate settings or even avoided with simple ways to cope with the heat.
The top ways for staying safe when the heat arrives are to:
- look out for others, especially older people, young children and babies and those with underlying health conditions
- close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
- drink plenty of water as sugary, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks can make you more dehydrated
- never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
- try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm
- take care and follow local safety advice, if you are going into the water to cool down
- walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat, if you have to go out in the heat
- avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day
- wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes
- make sure you take water with you, if you are travelling
Health professionals have identified some of the most common reasons why patients experience different kinds of illnesses and injuries during summer months – and what can be done to prevent you or loved one being among them.
Dehydration and heatstroke
During summer months, people often go to their doctor with a heat-related condition, from mild dehydration to severe heatstroke.
“Be mindful of the temperature, stay hydrated and avoid being outside for prolonged periods of time if the temperature is high ― especially during the hottest time of the day between 11am and 3pm.
“Certain foods are more dehydrating than others, and on hot and humid days like we’re expecting this week, you should try to avoid foods that can cause dehydration.
“Have plenty of cold drinks, and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine or drinks high in sugar. If drinking fruit juice, dilute it with water. Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with high water content.”
The local health campaign, ‘1,2,3 Healthy Wee’ encourages people to use a simple hydration chart to monitor their hydration during warm weather (please click the link to view chart).
The campaign, which launched across Nottinghamshire last year, aims to help prevent urinary tract infections and acute kidney injury, as well as other infections that can lead to more serious E.coli blood stream infections.
The campaign has seen a decrease in cases of E.coli in hospital settings in Nottinghamshire, with 961 cases in 2017/18 compared to 1066 in 2016/17.
Tracey Lamming, Senior Health Protection Practitioner at Public Health England East Midlands, said:
“It’s important that people are aware of what the colour of their urine signals in terms of how hydrated they are and the impact this can have on their health. Through simple steps such as keeping hydrated, it’s possible to prevent UTI’s and more serious infections from occurring, reducing the need for antibiotics, preventing an unwanted stay in hospital and lowering the number of antibiotic resistant infections.
Barbecues and food poisoning
Gastrointestinal issues frequently bring people to the Accident & Emergency department during warmer months. In fact, food-borne illnesses peak in the summer months, since hot temperatures and humid conditions provide the optimum breeding ground for bacteria to multiply rapidly.
It’s commonly seen after a summer barbecue, where the food has not been properly cooked or may have been left out in the heat. Or when fruits and vegetables have not been washed properly
Dr Lunn said: “Ensure food is cooked properly before serving. Be especially wary of food that’s been sitting out in the sun all day and wash your hands properly before eating.”
Sports-related injuries from playing football and outdoor activities are also a bigger issue. Sprained ankles, wrists and broken bones are common sights in urgent care clinics and emergency rooms between spring and summer, according to the experts.
“Treatment for these injuries typically requires a little home care. If you’ve suffered a strain or sprain use RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression Elevation) therapy or visit your pharmacy for advice. But if something feels seriously wrong or keeps getting worse, head to the doctor or call 111 as soon as possible.”
“Avoid extreme physical exertion. If you’re taking part in strenuous outdoor activity, such as sport, DIY or gardening, keep it for cooler parts of the day – for example, in the early morning or evening.
“Children should not take part in vigorous physical activity on very hot days, such as when temperatures are above 30°C.
“If you have painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen), after sustained exercise during very hot weather, rest immediately in a cool place and drink electrolyte drinks.
“Most people should start to recover within 30mins and if not, they should seek medical help. Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms, or if symptoms persist.
Dr Thomas Waite of Public Health England, said:
“Much of the advice on beating the heat is common sense. But before the hot weather arrives, it is a really good time to think about what you can do to protect yourself and your family and friends from heat.
“For some people, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions and young children, the summer heat can bring real health risks. That’s why we’re urging everyone to keep an eye on those you know who may be at risk this summer. If you’re able, ask if your friends, family or neighbours need any support.”
Choose the right service for your illness or injury
Dr Lunn advises urges local people to think carefully about the right service:
“Unnecessary GP visits can drain resources from caring for older, chronically-ill people, and have a knock-on effect of placing A&E and emergency departments under further pressure.
“All kinds of minor illnesses and injuries, from insect bites to hay fever, sun burn to minor cuts, can be treated at home with advice and medicines from your local pharmacist.
“Self-care is the best option if you have a common summer health complaint.
Your high street pharmacy can give you expert advice without an appointment.
“You can also call 111 free of charge, 24 hours a day, 365 days a week for a medical emergency that does not require a 999 call.