Heat health warning

The Met Office have advised there is a high chance of heat health warnings for this Friday 17th June 2022. It is important that schools and early years settings have considered the effects of heat on the health of children. We strongly advise schools and other settings to sign up to the Met Office alerts to provide prior warning to enable planning to manage risk.

What do we mean by “heat health warnings”

Children and some vulnerable adults cannot control their body temperature as efficiently as during hot weather and so can be at risk of ill-health from heat. Heat-related illness can range from mild heat stress to potentially life-threatening heatstroke. The main risk from heat is dehydration (not having enough water in the body). If sensible precautions are taken children and adults are unlikely to be adversely affected by hot conditions, however, teachers, assistants, school nurses and all child carers should look out for signs of heat stress, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Children’s susceptibility to high temperatures varies; those under 4 years of age, who are overweight, or who are taking certain medication may be at increased risk of adverse effects. Some children with disabilities or complex health needs may be more susceptible to high temperatures. The school nurse, community health practitioner, family health visitor or the child’s specialist health professional may be able to advise on the particular needs of the individual child. Support staff should be made aware of the risks and how to manage them.

Further information about supporting children with medical condition can be found at the Department for Education website.

It is important that schools and early years settings have considered the effects of a heat on children and vulnerable staff and public health guidance is outlined as follows:

Protecting children outdoors:

During periods of high temperature, the following steps should be taken:

  • children should not take part in vigorous physical activity on very hot days, such as when temperatures are in excess of 30°C
  • encourage children playing outdoors to stay in the shade as much as possible
  • children should wear loose, light-coloured clothing to help keep cool and sunhats with wide brims to avoid sunburn
  • use sunscreen (at least factor 15 with UVA protection) to protect skin if children are playing or taking lessons outdoors for more than 20 minutes
  • provide children with plenty of water (such as water from a cold tap) and encourage them to drink more than usual when conditions are hot

Protecting children indoors

During periods of high temperature, the following steps should be taken:

  • open windows as early as possible in the morning before children arrive, or preferably overnight to allow stored heat to escape from the building – it is important to check insurance conditions and the need for security if windows are to be left open overnight
  • almost close windows when the outdoor air becomes warmer than the air indoors – this should help keep the heat out while allowing adequate ventilation
  • use outdoor sun awnings if available, or close indoor blinds or curtains, but do not let them block window ventilation
  • keep the use of electric lighting to a minimum
  • switch off all electrical equipment, including computers, monitors and printers when not in use – equipment should not be left in ‘standby mode’ as this generates heat
  • if possible, use those classrooms or other spaces which are less likely to overheat, and adjust the layout of teaching spaces to avoid direct sunlight on children
  • oscillating mechanical fans can be used to increase air movement if temperatures are below 35°C – at temperatures above 35°C fans may not prevent heat-related illness and may worsen dehydration
  • if necessary, consider rearranging school start, finish, and play times to avoid teaching during very hot conditions
  • encourage children to eat normally and drink plenty of cool water

For further information on reducing temperatures within school buildings and grounds see UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) Heatwave Plan for England.

See further guidance below: