With temperatures set to hit record highs over the next few days, people across Bedfordshire are being urged to take additional precautions to keep themselves and others safe.
An extreme heat warning has been issued by the Met Office, with temperatures set to hit 40C by Tuesday.
Agencies across Bedfordshire are putting plans in place to minimise the impact of the heatwave, which is likely to put additional pressure on the NHS and affect travel - so people are being encouraged to avoid unnecessary journeys, particularly on Monday and Tuesday.
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A rise in Covid patients being admitted to local hospitals, coupled with rising temperatures, is resulting in hospitals and ambulance services struggling to cope with demand.
Director of Performance & Governance for the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, Geraint Davies, said: “The overall message is simple – keep emergency medical services available for real emergencies. If in doubt, think 111 first. Go online for advice, or call NHS 111 for an assessment and instruction on where to get urgent medical help.
“Only call 999 for an ambulance or attend A&E in a genuine emergency – that is where not to do so would put someone’s life at risk. If you are advised that you do need hospital care, please consider whether it is safe for you to make your own way there.”
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has also issued advice on how to stay safe.
Cllr Louise Jackson, Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing at Bedford Borough Council, said: “We want everyone to enjoy the hot weather safely and UKHSA has produced some helpful advice to follow about how to cope with warmer conditions.
“Make sure to look out for signs of heat exhaustion to avoid any risks the heat may pose, keep cool and hydrated.
“We are urging everyone to keep an eye on those you know who may be at risk, especially older and more vulnerable people. If you are able, ask if your friends, family, or neighbours need any support.”
Cllr Hazel Simmons MBE, Leader of Luton Council, said: “It’s important we all take sensible precautions to avoid becoming unwell during this extreme heat and avoid unnecessary travel.
"Please follow the health advice to keep safe and do what Luton people do best and that is to look out for each other. Check on vulnerable family, friends and neighbours, and make sure they are aware of how they can keep themselves cool and hydrated.”
People are being urged to resist the temptation of jumping in rivers and lakes to cool down from the hot weather.
Water and Roads Area Community Safety Officer for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Stacey Moore, said: “The water can seem inviting to cool off, but there are many hidden dangers under the surface that could cause serious injury or even death. Please remember, even though it is hot out there the water is still cold and can lead to cold water shock and drowning.
“If you do see someone in trouble in the water do not enter the water, always call 999.
"If you are ever in difficulty in the water, don’t panic, fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back in the water and float on your back until the effects of cold-water shock pass. Then, you can call for help or swim to safety.
“Enjoy the warm weather and make sure to keep yourself, family and friends safe by being water aware."
People are also reminded of the importance of not leaving people or animals in hot cars.
Superintendent Steve Ashdown from Bedfordshire Police said: “We want people to enjoy the warm weather, but please be aware of the health impact particularly on young children, vulnerable adults and animals.
“In particular, never leave anyone or any animals in a closed, parked vehicle when it is warm as the temperature inside can be extremely dangerous.”
People are advised to:
>Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
>Keep in touch especially with older and young people to ensure they are okay
>Try to keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
>Stick to the shade, wear sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat and light, loose-fitting clothing
>Keep places cool, especially homes and cars
>Watch out for signs of heat related illnesses like dizziness and feeling unwell
Visit Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System for more tips on how to keep cool and safe.