Whilst Wales has a temperate climate with temperatures usually not getting too hot or too cold, extreme heat conditions and heatwaves can occur. While many of us will enjoy the sun, it’s important to remember that extreme heat can cause health problems; rising temperatures can leave some people vulnerable. These groups may include older people, the very young and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Overexposure to sun can be dangerous, with effects ranging from mild sunburn to skin cancer. The Met Office classes a heatwave when temperatures exceed 32°C.

The main risks posed by a heatwave are:

  • Dehydration (not having enough water).
  • Overheating can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing.
  • Heat exhaustion.
  • Heatstroke.

Heatwaves can also have an effect on your environment with:

  • More vehicle breakdowns due to overheating engines.
  • Disruption to travel and logistics due to deterioration of road surfaces.
  • Droughts could be a regular event; they vary in intensity and duration across the country.
  • Water shortages, which could lead to hosepipe bans etc.
  • Road surfaces deteriorating as tarmac begins to melt.

Keeping your Cool

In order to stay safe during a heatwave, it is advised to keep you and your environment as cool as possible:

  • Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
  • If you have to go out in the heat, apply a sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher, wear a hat and walk in the shade.
  • Avoid extreme physical exertion.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
  • Have plenty of cold drinks and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.
  • Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content.

During a Heatwave

  • If you feel unwell, rest somewhere cool and drink plenty of fluids.
  • If symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, weakness, dizziness or cramps get worse or don’t go away, seek medical help.

When you leave the house, ensure you are fully prepared to protect yourself from the sun; whether that is from walking in it, or travelling on a long or short journey. If you have pets with you during a heatwave, ensure they aren’t left on their own in the car, as the car will get extremely hot.

Between the 1st June and 15th September, the Met Office will operate a Heat-Health Watch system.  During this period, the Met Office may forecast severe heatwaves, as defined by day and night-time temperatures and duration. The system works on four levels:

  • Level 1 Awareness.
  • Level 2 Alert.
  • Level 3 Heatwave.
  • Level 4 Emergency.