Take care in the heat: Dr David Crichton

Children across the borough have now broken up from school for the summer holidays and I’m sure there are many families looking forward to memories in the glorious weather we’ve been having.

According to the Met Office, another heatwave could be on the way in the second week of August, and it may last for at least two weeks.

Sunshine is good for us and can bring about many health benefits including:

Reduced stress

Melatonin lowers stress reactivity and being outside will help your body naturally regulate melatonin, which can help reduce your stress level. Additionally, because you’re often doing something active when you’re outside (walking, playing, etc.), that extra exercise also helps to lower stress.

Maintains strong bones

One of the best (and easiest) ways to get vitamin D is by being outside. Our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight—about 15 minutes in the sun a day is adequate if you’re fair skinned. And since Vitamin D helps your body maintain calcium and prevents brittle, thin, or misshapen bones, soaking in sun may be just what the doctor ordered.

Strengthens your immune system

Vitamin D is also critical for your immune system, and with consistent exposure to sunlight, you can help strengthen it. A healthy immune system can help reduce the risk of illness, infections, some cancers, and mortality after surgery.

Helps fight off depression

It’s not just in your head; there’s a scientific reason being in the sunshine improves your mood. Sunshine boosts your body’s level of serotonin, which is a chemical that improves your mood and helps you stay calm and focused. Increased exposure to natural light may help ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder – a change in mood that typically occurs in the fall and winter months when there are fewer hours of daylight.

Of course, as much as the sun can be great for our health, it carries some risks and it’s always important to enjoy the sun safely by covering up, wearing sun protection and taking some precautions to make sure you don’t overheat.

Here are some top tips to stay cool during a heatwave:

  • During the hottest times, keep your windows open and blinds or curtains closed. This stops the sun shining through and keeps your house nice and cool.
  • Sleepless nights are not fun. Ditch the duvet and try sleep with a sheet instead.
  • Drink lots of cool non-alcoholic drinks and food with high-water content, such as fruit and salads.
  • Avoid going out between 11am and 3pm – this is when it is hottest. This is especially important if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat.
  • If you’re setting off on a long journey, make sure you have enough food, water and any medications you need. It’s important to plan for any event in which you may become stranded on the road or on public transport.
  • Wear loose fitting, light clothing. Put on a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself.
  • Older people are among those most likely to suffer in the heat, so if you have an elderly friend, relative or neighbour, check in on them to make sure they’re OK.

For more information summer health advice please visit the NHS website.