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Dublin: 9°C Monday 25 October 2021
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'We burn particularly easily': How to keep yourself, your family and your pets safe in the heat

Temperatures are set to remain in the high 20s this week.

Image: Shutterstock/Arthid Whungupdolloh

IT WAS A bit of a mixed summer weather-wise up until the end of last week, when the hottest temperature of the year was recorded on Friday, then again on Saturday.

And the good spell is set to continue: on Saturday night, Met Éireann issued a High Temperature Advisory, which is in place until midday on Friday.

Temperatures are forecast to remain in the high 20s until then, with the possibility that the mercury will reach the 30s in some places.

But high temperatures also mean a good deal of sun, which comes with its own health warning, as do other attempts we might have to cool off.

Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager at Irish Cancer Society, has warned of the dangers that come with sunburn on weeks like this.

“Getting burnt just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer,” he explains.

“Here in Ireland about 75% of the population has very fair skin, which means that we burn particularly easily. We are particularly vulnerable to UV damage and skin cancer, we really need to protect our skin.”

Roger Sweeney of Irish Water Safety also points out the dangers that are involved as people flock to beaches, lakes and rivers to cool off.

“76 people drowned in Ireland last year and although that’s the lowest since 1936, we should be mindful that the risk of drowning is particularly high at present,” he said.

“People can be lulled into a false sense of security by the picture-postcard scenes we have at our waterways during really warm weather.”

Here’s what you can do to stay safe and enjoy the good weather without too many worries this week.

Skincare

If you’re going to be out in the sun, break out the factor 50.

With the sun out in full force, applying sunscreen to protect your skin has never been more important.

Make sure you reapply your sunscreen throughout the day to ensure you prevent sunburn. And ensure the sunscreen you use has high UVA and UVB protection.

“We always advise people to put it on at least 20 minutes before going out and use an SPF of at least 30+ for adults, and 50+ for children,” O’Hagan said.

It’s also important to remember that no sunscreen can provide 100% protection and should be used alongside other protective measures such as staying in the shade.

When outside, seek the shade and ensure you find a shady area when spending prolonged periods of time outdoors – this can help to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed with the heat and will also protect your skin.

In particular, try to stay in the shade between the hours of 11am to 3pm, which is when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest.

Wearing a hat can also protect your face, neck and ears from the worst of the sun, while choosing clothes that are made of a close woven material will offer good UV protection for your skin.

And don’t forget your eyes either: wear sunglasses to prevent the sun’s rays from damaging them where possible. Short-term UV exposure to the eyes can cause mild irritation and burning to the part of the eye known as the cornea.

Water safety

When you’re choosing a spot, swim at lifeguarded waterways and know where the lifeguard flags are and what they mean.

No lifeguard flag means that there is no lifeguard on duty. A red flag means that a lifeguard is on duty, but has deemed conditions to be too unsafe to swim.

The red and yellow flags mean a lifeguard is on duty and the lifeguard is patrolling between those flags. Ensure you swim between the flags and stay within your depth.

If you’re going for a dip in the sea, beware of rip currents, which can be difficult to spot but which can take you away from the shore and be fatal.

If you get caught in one, never swim against the current: swim parallel to the shore until you leave the rip-tide, then swim towards shore.

If you’re unable to swim out of a rip current, float or calmly tread water. If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.

Don’t use inflatable toys in open water.

If you’re getting out on the water in a boat, wear a lifejacket. Likewise, always wear a lifejacket when paddle boarding or angling, and make sure it has a correctly fitting crotch strap.

Check local tides, currents and weather forecast before going out, and tell someone about your plans. Ensure you have a means of communication such as a mobile phone or a handheld VHF radio in a waterproof container.

Never mix alcohol with water activities. Even though pubs have yet to fully reopen, do not be tempted to drink near, on or around water. Alcohol is a factor in one third of drownings.

General advice

Wherever you’re out and about, make sure you drink plenty of water.

High temperatures mean our body is going to be sweating more to cool us down. Replacing these fluids throughout the day and staying hydrated will help regulate your body temperature.

If you are going to be doing physical activity outdoors, ensure that you bring water with you.

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And remember that pets need help in the heat too. Animals are vulnerable to heat stroke when exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time.

Do not leave your dog in the car, and try to take them out for walks at cooler times of the day such as the morning or evening.

If you take your pet out during the hot temperatures, ensure you bring water for them.

Remember that hot weather can also cause heat stroke and aggravate pre-existing health conditions in people.

Groups who are particularly at risk during warm weather are children, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

Symptoms to watch out for during heat waves include feeling faint or dizzy, vomiting, shortness of breath or increasing confusion.

Dr Noirín O’Herlihy, Assistant Medical Director of the Irish College of General Practitioners noted that children are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke.

She emphasised the importance of ensuring that children were not left in cars “even if the windows or doors are open as temperatures rise quite quickly”.

If you do get sunburned, cool down the area as soon as possible keeping it moisturised. And don’t go out in the sun the following day. If the sunburn is over a large area of the skin you, may need to speak to your doctor.

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