Public Health England’s weekly surveillance bulletin reveals there was a small increase in reports of heat related illness from Monday 8 July to Sunday 14 July, in line with the recent warm weather.
Public Health England (PHE) collects and interprets data on GP consultations (in hours and out of hours), NHS telephone helpline calls and emergency department attendances to monitor the effects of the heatwave on people’s health.
This data presents us with an indication of the number of people seeking advice for a variety of heat related issues such as heat/sun stroke, sunburn, dehydration or exhaustion.
The increases were predominantly noted across the East of England, South West and South East Coast regions of England, and were reported across all age groups.
Current data from the Office for National Statistics indicates there have been no excess deaths identified in England during the same period, although this picture may change as further death registration information becomes available for the ongoing heatwave in the coming weeks.
Since 1 June, 2013, the Met Office has issued Level 2 and Level 3 alerts across most areas of England, with the latest Level 3 alerts triggered today for the West Midlands and South West. Level 3 alerts are also in place in London and the South East.
Level 3 heatwave alerts are triggered as soon as the Met Office confirms there is a 90% chance of heatwave conditions, when temperatures are high enough over threshold levels to have a significant effect on health on at least two consecutive days.
Dr Angie Bone, Heatwave Plan Lead for PHE, said:
The information from our surveillance systems shows an increase in reports of heat related illness, in line with expectations for the hot weather.
These increases serve as a reminder for everyone to stay safe in the sun; keep out of the sun during the hottest times of the day, look out for vulnerable others in the heat, and avoid physical exertion in the heat where possible. Institutions and organisations that look after large numbers of potentially vulnerable people such as hospitals, care homes, nurseries, schools and prisons need to be particularly aware of the actions recommended in the Heatwave plan.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can both be very serious if they are not treated quickly. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include feeling sick, faint and sweating heavily. If a person with heat exhaustion is taken quickly to a cool place, is given water to drink and remove any unnecessary, heavier clothing, they should begin to feel better within half an hour and have no long-term complications. Without treatment, they could develop heatstroke. Heatstroke is far more serious than heat exhaustion and vulnerable people such as the very young, elderly and those with chronic conditions are more at risk. Symptoms of heatstoke include mental confusion, rapid shallow breaking and a loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately.
PHE will continue to monitor this surveillance and will produce regular updates on the impact of the heatwave on health.
PHE’s Syndromic Surveillance weekly report records ‘real-time’ data across a series of health issues related to cold/flu symptoms: fever; cough; difficulty breathing; rash; diarrhoea; vomiting; eye problems; lumps; double vision; respiratory, gastrointestinal and other clinical indicators. These systems are used routinely throughout the year to monitor the diseases that are circulating and the impact of environmental events, including heatwaves, that may be affecting the general population.
The Syndromic Surveillance weekly report is published on the PHE website every Thursday at 2pm.
Notes to editors:
The Heatwave Plan for England 2013 was published by Public Health England.
See more information about the Heat-Health Watch system from the Met Office.
See more information about sun safety tips from Public Health England.
See information about skin cancer and sun protection from Cancer Research UK.
About Public Health England
Public Health England is a new executive agency of the Department of Health that took up its full responsibilities on 1 April 2013. PHE works with national and local government, industry and the NHS to protect and improve the nation’s health and support healthier choices and will be addressing inequalities by focusing on removing barriers to good health. To find out more visit our website www.gov.uk/phe, follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk.