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A national emergency has been declared after predictions of record-breaking temperatures for this week.

It is the first time ever that the Met Office has issued a Red National Severe Weather Warning for extreme heat and the first time 40C has been forecast for parts of the UK.

Meanwhile the UK Health Security Agency increased its heat level warning from three to four – a national emergency.

And as extreme as the situation is, it looks like it’s something we will have to get used to because of global warming.

In Britain hot weather has traditionally been seen as a welcome break from our often disappointing summers. But now it’s time to start taking extreme heat more seriously.

Ahead of this week’s heatwave the Met Office’s Chief Executive Professor Penny Endersby warned: “In this country we’re used to treating a hot spell as a chance to go and play in the sun. This is not that sort of weather.”

So what should we do to stay safe as extreme heatwaves look set to become more frequent?

Look after the vulnerable

Keep a close eye on the elderly, babies and people with underlying health conditions. Older people who live alone are particularly at risk and should be checked on.

Look after yourself

Even the young and healthy can be at risk when temperatures rise so steeply. But there are simple things we can do to look after ourselves.

One of the easiest is to avoid the sun – particularly when it is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm.

If you do go out try to stay in the shade and wear loose, light clothing and a hat.

Avoid travelling if you can and consider working from home if possible. But make use of cooler or air-conditioned public buildings such as libraries, places of worship and supermarkets.

Drink plenty of water and avoid excess alcohol.

Shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight. Open windows when the air feels cooler outside than inside, such as at night, to get air flowing through.

Watch out for heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

According to the NHS – heat exhaustion is not usually serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If it turns into heatstroke you should treat it as an emergency and dial 999.

The signs of heat exhaustion include – a headache, dizziness and confusion, loss of appetite and feeling sick, excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin, cramps in the arms, legs and stomach, fast breathing or pulse, a temperature of 38C or above, being very thirsty. Children may become floppy and sleepy.

Follow these four steps from the NHS to help someone with heat exhaustion

1 – Move them to a cool place.

2 – Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.

3 – Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks can be used.

4 – Cool their skin by spraying or sponging them with cool water and fanning them. Cold packs can be used around the armpits or neck.

Call 999 if someone is showing signs of heatstroke  

1 – feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water.

2 – Not sweating despite feeling too hot.

3 – A temperature of 40C or above.

4 – Fast breathing or shortness of breath.

5 – Confusion.

6 – Fits.

7 – Loss of consciousness

Moving to a cooler room can help in hot weather. Anyone who struggles to get up and down stairs could benefit from having a stairlift installed.  Get in touch with our friendly team of experts at Halton Stairlifts for help and advice. Call 0800 644 7766 to find out more or to arrange your free home assessment.