Be prepared for hot weather
Summer temperatures in Northern Ireland can be a risk to health. It is important to make sure you and those you care for are suitably hydrated. Dehydration can cause significant health problems and lead to death in extreme cases. Young children and the elderly are most at risk. They may be unaware of becoming overheated and not drinking enough liquids to stay hydrated.
If you are worried about the summer heat you can find information on the Met Office website. Organisations like Age Concern Help the Aged NI have useful tips on how to stay cool in summer.
You can follow some simple guidelines to stay fit and well during a long warm spell:
- try to stay out of the sun, particularly when it is at its highest between 11.00 am and 3.00 pm
- stock up on supplies like medicines, food and non-alcoholic drinks, so you won’t have to go out in the heat
- keep your home cool - shutting windows when it's hotter outside than inside may help
- open your windows at night - when it's cooler
- keep drinking fluids
- do strenuous outdoor activities, like DIY or gardening during cooler parts of the day, like early morning
- keep alcohol drinking to a minimum - it dehydrates the body
- avoid heavy and hot food; modify your diet to include plenty of fruit and salad as this helps keep you hydrated
- use a sun cream with a high sun protection factor - also known as 'SPF' - for protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation
Sunscreen and sun safety
- wear light, loose-fitting clothing, such as cotton, so sweat can evaporate
- if you feel sick or dizzy, keep out of the sun and seek medical advice
You must also take care of pets during warm weather. Make sure they have plenty of ventilation and liquid to stay hydrated.
Keep your house cool
In hot weather, stay inside the coolest rooms in your house as much as possible. These are probably the rooms that get little sun during the day. To help keep all rooms in your house cool, you can:
- close pale-coloured curtains – closing dark curtains and metal blinds can make rooms hotter
- keep windows closed when it’s hotter outside than inside, but open them if the room gets too hot
- open windows at night when the air is cooler, but close ground floor windows when you leave the house or go to bed
Take extra care with food in hot weather
When it’s hot, bacteria on food can multiply very quickly, which increases the risk of food poisoning. So, it’s important to make sure food is:
- kept in cooler bags when taking it home from the supermarket or out for a picnic
- put in the fridge as soon as you get home - the temperature of the fridge should be between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius
- kept out of the sun
- only out of the fridge for the shortest time possible – no more than a couple of hours
You can find out more about food hygiene and how to avoid food poisoning at the following nidirect page:
Take care with bins and waste
Bins and waste can attract flies and maggots and start to smell in the heat, so make sure you:
- move bins out of direct sunlight and keep their lids closed at all times
- double bag food waste and nappies and squeeze the air out of the top of the bags before you tie them
- clean bins with disinfectant after they have been emptied – you can pour boiling water over them to kill any maggots
- recycle as much as possible to reduce waste
For more information about bin and waste collection and recycling, contact your local council.
Looking after pets
Your pets and other animals can also suffer heatstroke in hot weather if they don’t keep cool. Never leave animals inside a car on a hot day and make sure they have:
- plenty of clean, fresh water to drink
- a cool and shady place to rest
It’s also important to cover pet food dishes to prevent flies laying eggs on the food.
Contact a vet if you are worried that an animal is suffering from heatstroke. More information about looking after pets in hot weather is on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) website.
During hot and dry weather, avoid bonfires and be extra careful with barbecues. Dry ground in the summer increases the risk of fire. See ‘Fire safety outdoors - barbecues and camping’ for advice.