People across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are being urged to know how to look after themselves and their loved ones in the hot weather. The main health risks include dehydration and sunburn. Older people and infants are particularly vulnerable to becoming dehydrated, while children are particularly at risk of sunburn.
As the hot weather continues, there has been an upswing in patients attending Leicester Royal Infirmary with sunstroke due to not drinking enough fluid during warmer weather and with cases of sunburn. These conditions can be prevented by patients taking simple steps to protect themselves.
Patients who are suffering from sunburn or the symptoms of dehydration who feel that they need medical attention should call NHS 111, who will be able to advise on the best course of action.
Dr Nick Willmott, local GP and clinical lead at West Leicestershire CCG said: “While the young and the elderly are particularly vulnerable, everyone should take care and stay hydrated and avoid sunburn.
“People should be aware of the symptoms of dehydration and particularly take care of older people, especially if they are less mobile and struggle to get regular drinks for themselves. Also remember that older relatives or neighbours who live alone might need someone to pop in and remind them to make sure that they have plenty to drink and stay hydrated.”
NHS 111 is free to call and, for the appropriate patients who need it, is now supported by an expanded team of clinicians, so that the care the patient is directed to the right care, first time.
When a patient calls 111, they will be asked a number of questions, so the call handler understands their needs.
Following this, if the call handler feels the patient needs to talk to a nurse, a doctor, a pharmacist or another health professional, the call will be directly and quickly passed through to a new service called the Clinical Navigation Hub – where the people who provide clinical support are there to help.
Signs of dehydration include:
• feeling thirsty and lightheaded
• a dry mouth
• passing urine less often than usual
It’s best to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of non-fizzy fluids such as water, diluted squash or fruit juice.
Contact NHS 111 for advice straight away if you or anyone you care for has any of the following symptoms:
• extreme thirst
• feeling unusually tired (lethargic) or confused
• not passing urine for eight hours
• rapid heartbeat
• dizziness when you stand up that doesn't go away after a few seconds
They will then advise the best next action.
Dr Willmott added that to people going out in the sun should ensure that large areas of skin are covered to reduce sun burn or use a high factor sun protection lotion to reduce burning.
He said: “The sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm, so it’s important to try and keep children in the shade during this time. Even if it’s cloudy or overcast they can still burn.
“Apply a sunscreen every couple of hours to help protect their skin, especially if they are in and out of water. Even waterproof sunscreen can wash off and the cooling effect of the water can mask the feeling of getting burned.
“Be especially careful to protect your child’s shoulders and the back of their necks while they are playing. And don’t forget to apply sunscreen to delicate areas, such as shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks and the tops of feet. These are the most common areas to get burned."
A sun screen with a protection factor [SPF] of 50 gives the best protection, along with protective clothing, such as a floppy hat with a wide brim to help shade their face and neck, and an oversized t-shirt with sleeves to protect their back and shoulders.
To treat minor sunburn it’s best to sponge sore skin with cool water then apply soothing after sun or calamine lotion. Your local pharmacy can advise on over-the-counter treatment to help ease symptoms and reduce inflammation.
And don’t forget good quality sunglasses! These should meet British Standards (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the "CE" mark.”