How to prepare for heatwave temperatures
Read our advice on how to prepare for a heatwave and what to do to be safe during heatwave temperatures.
Heatwaves and periods of extreme heat in the UK are becoming more common. Rises in temperature can affect many areas of your life in different ways, from your health to your day-to-day activities.
During the summer months, it's important to make sure you are prepared for extended periods of unusually warm weather. On this page, you can learn how to keep your house cool, how to look after those most at risk in hot weather, and ways to stay cool at night.
How to prepare for a heatwave
We are usually given a few days warning before a heatwave arrives, so there's time to prepare. You never know exactly how long the heatwave will last, so it's important to be well-prepared.
Stock up on food and drinking water. If needed, store water in case there is a problem with your water supply.
Check fridges, freezers, fans, and air conditioning units are working. If you have a ventilation system in your home, check this is switched on and working.
Switch your central heating off.
Check on friends, neighbours, and relatives. Make sure they are aware of the risks and help them with heatwave preparation.
Babies and children, those with underlying health issues, and elderly people are at particular risk during hot weather. Find out if anyone you know or care for will need additional support.
Ensure you have enough medication and you know how to store it in hot temperatures.
A chronic illness, such as a heart, lung, or kidney problem, may get worse in hot weather. Consult your doctor about how best to cope during a heatwave. Call 999 in an emergency.
Look after your health in a heatwave, so plan ahead to reduce the risk. Stock up on items you may need like sunscreen and rehydration tablets.
Vehicles can be affected by high temperatures and long periods of hot weather. To stay safe on the road, check your tyres, fluid levels, battery, and air conditioning work. Carry water in your car in case of a breakdown.
Know who to contact in an emergency. You can call NHS 111 for medical advice or 999 in an emergency. Download the British Red Cross emergency app for more information.
What to do in a heatwave
When the hot weather arrives, take steps to keep yourself safe and minimise the impact on your health.
- Keep out of the heat during the hottest hours of the day. This is usually between 11 am and 3 pm. If you can’t avoid it, take breaks in the shade.
- Keep yourself covered and protected when out in the sun
- Protect your eyes with sunglasses and wear light, loose clothing. Avoid looking directly at the sun to avoid permanent damage.
- Keep an eye on children and animals, who are more vulnerable.
- Keep yourself hydrated - you'll need more water than usual during heatwave temperatures.
- Stick to cold foods and drinks and avoid alcohol. Cool yourself down by having cold showers or washing your face.
- Look out for heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Make sure you know the signs and what to do in an emergency.
- Only make necessary journeys, avoid peak traffic and the hottest hours of the day. Don't bring pets with you during very hot weather.
Resources that can help you before and after a heatwave in the UK:
How to keep a child or baby cool and safe in a heatwave
Children and babies are more vulnerable to increases in temperatures. Pay extra attention to how they are feeling during heatwave temperatures.
- Keep your child covered in light, loose clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Avoid direct sunlight and reapply sunblock (at least SPF 30 sunscreen).
- Reduce play time in the sun to avoid sun burn or overheating. If you are outside, stick to the shade especially when the sun is at its strongest.
- Learn how to spot heat exhaustion and heat stroke in a child or baby. If you suspect heat stroke symptoms, then call 999. •
- Children and babies can become dehydrated quickly. Give plenty of fluids and monitor closely.
- Don't leave children unsupervised in a car. Even with windows slightly open, a child or baby left in a car is at serious risk of heat-related illnesses.
- Schools and nurseries will have their own procedures for heatwave weather. Make sure you are in contact with them and aware of any changes to the normal routine.
Keeping your home cool
One in five homes in England are likely to overheat during periods of hot weather, so it’s important you know how to keep your house cool.
- Make sure windows are covered to protect from direct sunlight like blinds, curtains, or external shutters. If you don’t have anything, hanging a bed sheet or towel should have a similar effect.
- Shut windows during the hottest parts of the day, to keep the warmer air out.
- Open windows when the air feels cooler outside than inside, for example at night.
- Check your central heating is off, as well as lights and electrical equipment that aren’t in use.
- Create a breeze in your home by opening different windows.
- Electric fans can help, but only if the temperature is below 35 degrees.
- Rather than trying to cool down the whole house, choose one or two rooms.
- Consider cooking at cooler times of the day, or choose meals that don't require the use of an oven or hob.
- If you are struggling to keep cool in your home, visiting public spaces like public libraries and supermarkets may be cooler if it is safe to do so.
- If you have concerns about an uncomfortably hot home that is affecting your health or someone else’s health, seek medical advice. If it’s an emergency, call 999.
How to keep cool at night
It can be difficult to sleep in hot weather. If it's too hot or too cold your internal body temperature may be affected disrupting your ability to drop off and stay sleeping.
How to sleep in the heat:
- Sleep in the lowest level of your home - heat rises. If you are on one level, move to the coolest area
- Make sure all electrical items are turned off and not in standby mode, as this still creates heat
- Have a lukewarm or cool shower before bed to bring your body temperature down slowly This will also help to cool down hot feet at night.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods in the evening - they increase your body temperature
- Drink a glass of cold water before bed and keep one close during the night
- Sleep with a thin sheet rather than no cover at all to help regulate your body temperature
- Choose loose-fitting clothing - tight clothes or pyjamas will trap warm air next to your body