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Avoid the beach and do NOT exercise during UK's heatwave, experts say

Avoid the beach and do NOT exercise during UK’s 43C heatwave, scientists say amid fears extreme temperatures could cripple an already-struggling NHS

  • Professor Mike Tipton said people will get sunburnt at beach and fill up A&E
  • And he urged even fit and healthy to avoid exercise in case of heat exhaustion
  • Temperatures are already closing in on the all-time UK record of 38.7C

Britons should avoid exercise and going to the beach this week, experts have said amid fears heatwave-related injuries and illnesses will lead to more pressure on the stretched NHS. 

Professor Mike Tipton, a physiologist at the University of Portsmouth, argued people will inevitably get sunburnt at the seaside and fill up A&E.

He also urged people, including the fit and healthy, to avoid working out in case they suffer heat exhaustion. 

The condition — triggered by the body being unable to cool itself down — can cause dizziness, excessive sweating and lead to potentially fatal heat stroke.

‘The recommendation would be just for the next couple of days, when we’re now in unprecedented temperatures is just to stop exercising and rest,’ he added.

Temperatures are already closing in on the all-time UK record of 38.7C (101.7F), with today being the hottest of 2022 so far as the mercury hit 36C (97F) in Cambridge at 1pm today. 

Trains have been cancelled, hospital appointments axed and schools shut following warnings that healthy people could die.

Professor Mike Tipton, a physiologist at the University of Portsmouth said people will get sunburnt at the seaside and fill up emergency departments. ‘So it’s not a great idea to go and sit exposed in these particular conditions,’ he said. Pictured: People flock to Bournemouth beach in Dorset today as they make the most of the extreme temperatures

And Professor Tipton urged even the fit and healthy to avoid working out in case they suffer heat exhaustion. The condition — triggered by the body being unable to cool itself down — can cause dizziness, excessive sweating and lead to potentially fatal heat stroke. ‘The recommendation would be just for the next couple of days, when we’re now in unprecedented temperatures is just to stop exercising and rest,’ he added. Pictured: a person running along Bournemouth beach


This map from Netweather shows how 41C highs are expected in parts of central England tomorrow – and 40C in the South

Speaking at a press briefing today, Professor Tipton was asked whether Brits should be avoiding the beach altogether this week.

He said: ‘Yes. Or take something to create some shade with them. You’ll often get a breeze at the beach, which is a step in the right direction. 

‘But a lot of hospital departments are likely to get filled up with people with sunburn. 

‘It doesn’t sound very bad but it can be, it’s a burn essentially, a UV burn that can end up with people going to A&E. 

‘So it’s not a great idea to go and sit exposed in these particular conditions.’

Officials have advised the public to avoid being in the sun amid claims that record-breaking temperatures will be logged today and tomorrow. 

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warned that while most people can enjoy the hot weather when it arrives, people should seek shelter between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its hottest.

A breeze and dipping in and out of the sea can help Britons keep cool but mean they underestimate their exposure to the sun, the NHS says. 

It advises people treat hot and sore skin themselves by having a cold bath, drinking plenty of fluids and managing any pain with medication. 

While sunburn usually gets better within days, people are urged to avoid it because it raises the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

Professor Tipton also warned that everyone — including the young, fit and healthy who want to maintain their exercise programme — should ‘avoid exercise and rest’. 

He explained that people produce a lot of heat when they exercise. 

People release around 90 watts of energy at rest (the same as a lightbulb), which jumps to two kilowatts when exercising hard (as much as a fire), Professor Tipton said. 

Amid the heatwave this week, people will ‘warm up just doing their day-to-day activity of moving around a house, or outside and cooking’, he said. 

‘Fitter people undoubtedly do better in the heat but we still see fit people who suffer from heat exhaustion, in particular,’ Professor Tipton added.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the temperature inside the body rises from the normal 37C and gets up to 40C — caused by a loss of body fluids after spending too long in the heat.

This causes the levels of water and salt in the body to fall, which can cause a person to feel sick, light-headed and sweat heavily.

If not brought under control within 30 minutes, it becomes heatstroke, which is when the body can no longer bring its temperature down, causing cells to break down and important parts of the body to stop working. 

Professor Tipton said: ‘The recommendation would be just for the next couple of days, when we’re now in unprecedented temperatures is just to stop exercising and rest unless you’ve got somewhere you can go. And do it early in the morning if you have to. 

‘Once the temperature gets up it tends to stay up for the rest of the day. 

‘Even for fit healthy individuals, we’re at the levels now where it’s not a great idea to go exercising. 

‘Because there is a chance that you’ll put an additional load on a health system that is already pushed to its limit.’

The UKHSA has advised people to stay cool this week by drinking plenty of fluid and walking in the shade, as well as wearing sun cream and a wide-brimmed hat if out in the heat. 

Dr Eunice Lo, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol Cabot Institute for the Environment, told the press briefing that all Britons need to take protect themselves against the scorching heat. 

She said: ‘Everyone is at risk and we do need to be aware and take precautions and definitely not view these as normal summer days or something to go out and have fun in.’ 

Met Office’s chief executive Professor Penny Endersby warned temperatures could well exceed the 38.7C logged in July 2019.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘We think today we may well see the hottest day in the UK in history, with the hottest temperatures in the South East.

‘But actually the highest temperatures we expect tomorrow, and those temperatures will be further north as that warm air pushes north. 

‘It’s tomorrow that we’re really seeing the higher chance of 40C and temperatures above that. 

‘Even possibly above that… 41C isn’t off the cards. We’ve even got some 43Cs in the model but we’re hoping it won’t be as high as that.’

Exercise early in the morning, have a glass of water with every alcoholic drink and give your dog a damp towel to lie on… your guide to surviving the heatwave 

What are the best ways to stay safe? 

People should avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm, when it’s at its hottest and UV light is strongest, to stay cool and avoid sunburn.

Walking in the shade and wearing a wide-brimmed hat can also reduce the risk of overheating. 

Taking a bottle of water and putting on sun cream when venturing outdoors will also protect against the sun’s effect. 

Those at home can keep temperatures lower by closing the curtains in rooms that face the sun. But they may want to venture outside if they find its hotter indoors.

Drinking plenty of fluids is essential to stay hydrated and cool in a heatwave. 

But people are advised to avoid alcohol, which raises body temperature, making it more likely a person will sweat and become dehydrated. This is on top of the dehydration alcohol triggers by making drinkers urinate more.

People should steer clear of sitting in a closed, parked vehicle, which can quickly overheat. And others, especially babies, children and animals, should not be left in a vehicle. 

Britons are also warned against exercising in the hottest part of the day. Early in the morning is the coolest time of day for outdoor activity. 

While dipping into open water may seem tempting, people are warned to take care and follow local safety advice.

How can hot weather be deadly?

Heatwaves kill up to 2,000 people in the UK each summer.

Hot weather can cause dehydration, which causes blood to thicken. It also lowers blood pressure, making it harder to push blood around the body. This can lead to blood clots and strokes.

And overheating can make symptoms worse for those with heart and breathing problems – which can become fatal.

There is also a higher risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially if exercising outdoors when it’s hot. This is caused by not drinking enough and losing fluids through sweat.

Studies have also found accidents and injuries, such as from car crashes, are higher worldwide during hot spells.

Experts believe this is because heat can interfere with thinking, making mistakes more likely.

Why does our body react to hot weather?

The body works to maintain an internal temperature of 37C, on average, which is needed to regulate bodily functions.

As the temperature outside gets hotter, so does our internal temperature. 

This means the body has to work harder to maintain its usual level and its thermoregulation system kicks in, which triggers sweat. This then evaporates from the skin, which helps the body cool down.

But sweating too much and not replenishing the body with fluid can cause dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. 

What are the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how can I cool down?

Heat exhaustion occurs when the temperature inside the body rises from the normal 37C and gets up to 40C. 

This causes the levels of water and salt in the body to fall, which can cause a person to feel sick, light-headed and sweat heavily.

At this stage, a person can cool themselves down by going to a cool place, drinking water and removing excess clothes. They should start feeling better within 30 minutes.

However, is a person does not cool down within 30 minutes, heat exhaustion becomes heatstroke, which is much more serious. 

Heatstroke happens when the body can no longer bring its temperature down, causing cells to break down and important parts of the body to stop working. 

Symptoms include mental confusion, rapid shallow breathing and loss of consciousness. If left untreated, it can lead to organ failure, brain damage and death. 

Britons are told to call an ambulance if they suspect they or someone else is having a heatstroke, get to a cool place, remove excess clothing and drink cool water. 

Who is the most at risk?

A heatwave can be risky for anyone, especially if they don’t stay cool and hydrated.

But older people, especially the over-75s, those living on their own or in care homes and those with long-term illnesses, such as heart or lunch conditions, are among the most at risk.

The heat wave also poses a greater problem for those who struggle to stay cool – including babies, young children, the bed bound and those with Alzheimer’s. 

People who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places – such as those in the top floor of a flat, the homeless and those who work outside – are more likely to suffer health complications.

Some drugs can also increase the risk of the heat. 

Diuretics, taken for heart failure, cause the body to expel more water, raising the risk of dehydration.

Antihypertensives – used to lower blood pressure – can cause dangerous drops in blood pressure, as the hot weather already lowers it.

Some epilepsy and Parkinson’s drugs can block sweating, which makes it more difficult for the body to cool itself down.

However, Britons who using these drugs are told to take their medication as normal and make more effort to stay cool in the hot weather.

How do you protect children from the sun?

Children should be kept out of the sun between 11am and 3pm when the sun is strongest, according to the National Childbirth Trust.

Children’s skin is more sensitive than adults, so can burn and become damaged more quickly – raising the risk of skin cancer developing in later life, the British Skin Foundation warns.

Experts say babies under the age of six months should be kept out of direct sun for the first six months.

And parents are advised to ensure they are protected by an SPF 50 sun cream that is reapplied every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating. 

Parents can dress youngsters in loose cotton clothes, such as oversized T-shirts with sleeves as well as wide-brimmed hats that shade their face and neck.

The back of the neck and shoulders are the most likely areas to get burnt when children are playing, so clothing that doesn’t have gaps for the sun to get through are best.

Youngsters should also wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. 

While shade is best in the hot weather, covering a pram with a muslin or blanket can trap heat and cause children to overheat. Experts recommend using a parasol or sunshade designed for a buggy.

Dehydration is a risk for babies and children, who should drink more when the weather is hot. Breastfed babies will need more breastmilk, while formula-fed babies can be offered cold water. 

Cars can get very hot in the sun, so babies and children should not be left. 

Can it ever be too hot for schools to be open?

There is no temperature threshold for closing schools or workplaces.

But some schools have taken measures into their own hands.

Earlier this week, Les Quennevais School in Jersey sent home pupils because it was unable to open windows and does not have air con. The secondary school also told students they can wear their PE kit for the remainder of term. 

The Hereford Academy in Hereford, Herefordshire posted on Facebook that classes will start and end earlier to avoid the hottest part of the day. 

And St Thomas More Catholic School in Willenhall, West Midlands took to the social media site to tell pupils and parents sports day was postponed to avoid hot temperatures at the start of next week. 

Schools do not have specific temperature guidance. Its covered in workplace advice published by the Government’s Health and Safety Executive.

It states: ‘In offices or similar environments, the temperature in workplaces must be reasonable.

‘There’s no law for maximum working temperature, or when it’s too hot to work.’

But it warns that employers must ‘stick to health and safety at work law’, which includes ‘keeping the temperature at a comfortable level’ and ‘providing clean and fresh air’.

And what about keeping pets safe?

Animals should have access to shade in hot weather and have a constant supply of fresh water to help them stay cool.

Owners can also put ice cubes in their pet’s water bowl to provide and extra cooling boost and give them damp towels to lie on. 

Pet-safe sun cream can also be used to cover exposed parts of an animal’s skin. 

Animals should never be left in cars, conservatories, outbuildings or caravans in hot weather, even if it’s only for a short amount of time. The temperature in these environments can quickly become double the level of outdoors.  

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