Views of NHS website heat health advice double as temperatures soar

Visits to heat exhaustion advice on the NHS website have more than doubled in the past 48 hours as temperatures surge in England.

The warm weather comes at the same time as the NHS is facing major disruption with junior doctors launching industrial action from 7am tomorrow for five days. (7am Thursday 27 June until 7am Tuesday 2 July).

A yellow heat health alert covering most of the country came into force on Monday and since then the number of people seeking advice on coping with hot weather has rocketed.

Figures from NHS England, which runs the NHS website, show that in the past 48 hours (24 and 25 June), there were 28,116 visits to the heat exhaustion page, compared with 13,598 over the weekend (22 and 23 June) – an 107% increase, with an average of one visit every six seconds.

Heat exhaustion does not usually need emergency medical help if you can cool down within 30 minutes but if it turns into heatstroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency.

The NHS is urging the public to use services as they normally would if they need them – with NHS 111 services available for urgent needs, and 999 for emergencies.

Despite the extensive planning and cover arrangements in place during industrial action, the strikes are expected to cause widespread disruption to routine care and difficulties with discharging patients.

This week’s industrial action also comes as more than 2.4 million people attended A&Es across the country in May – the busiest month on record – which followed the busiest ever April for diagnostic activity, with over 2.3 million tests, checks and scans carried out.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director said: “We’ve seen a significant increase in people coming to the NHS website for heat-related health advice over the past 48 hours.

“The website has lots of useful tips including how to stay cool, the symptoms of heat exhaustion, what to do if someone is affected and when to seek medical advice.

“Warmer weather, along with the latest round of industrial action, will put extra pressure on NHS services and make the next few days very difficult.

“People should continue to use 999 in life-threatening emergencies and NHS 111 – via the NHS App, online, or by phone – for other health concerns”.

Signs of heat exhaustion include tiredness, dizziness, headache, feeling sick, sweating, or clammy skin, cramps, fast breathing or heartbeat, a high temperature, being very thirsty and feeling weak.

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, they need to be cooled down and given fluids. The NHS advises moving them to a cool place, removing unnecessary clothing, giving them a rehydration drink or cool water and cooling their skin with water, a fan or cold packs wrapped in a cloth.

If their condition doesn’t start to improve after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place, call 999.

To prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke:

1.  drink more cold drinks, especially if you’re active or exercising
2.  wear light-coloured, loose clothing
3.  avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
4.  avoid excess alcohol
5.  avoid extreme exercise
6.  if you’re inside, close curtains, and windows if it’s hotter outdoors.

The NHS website is the UK’s biggest health website with an estimated 2.1 million visits a day in 2022 from people seeking information and advice. It includes over 4,000 pages and provides information about 990 medical conditions, as well other health services including applying for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card, finding a GP, and a pregnancy due date calculator.

For more information, visit the heat exhaustion and heatstroke page on the NHS website.