Monday 20 May 2019

Danger hidden in soaring heat

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Stock picture

Philip Ryan and Alan O'Keeffe

The Government has warned a heatwave not experienced for over 40 years poses serious health risks for older people, the very young and those suffering from chronic illness.

Minister for Health Simon Harris last night made an urgent appeal for the public to check in on "isolated, elderly or ill" neighbours as temperatures are expected to soar to as high as 30C this week.

"It's important that people take care and stay safe and well during the hot period," the minister told the Sunday Independent.

"Ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars and check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heat wave," he added.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said a public information campaign was required to raise awareness of the potential impact of soaring heat levels.

INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha advised people to keep hydrated, to apply sunscreen and to swim only in safe areas. She said any increase in hospital admissions because of the heatwave could further clog up wards. The numbers of patients currently waiting on hospital trolleys are already up by 16pc on last year, she said.

"If there are incidents of sunstroke or heat related illnesses, there will be an impact on hospitals," she said.

Advocacy groups have also warned of the potential impact of the heatwave on homeless people who could be vulnerable to heat stroke and dehydration

Inner City Helping Homeless issued an appeal last night for businesses and companies to supply or fund water for redistribution to the homeless.

Meanwhile, Met Eireann warned that "drought conditions" were increasingly likely, while Coillte issued an 'orange level' warning as forest fires broke out across the country yesterday.

Dublin Fire Brigade was last night tackling a number of fires in the countryside, mainly consisting of blazing gorse and scrublands but also trees. These included a significant blaze in Saggart in west Dublin and another in the Puck's Castle area of south Dublin.

The Dublin Fire Brigade warned people against lighting unnecessary fires and to take care with barbecues.

Irish Water said homes and businesses in the greater Dublin Area could experience outages as the sweltering weather dries up supplies.

It said people should avoid hosing their gardens, have showers instead of baths and turn off taps while brushing their teeth.

This week's heatwave could be the hottest summer since 1976 when the country was gripped by weeks of drought.

Met Eireann forecaster Deirdre Lowe said the nation can expect "warmer and warmer weather" with temperatures of 25C today, 26C tomorrow, and reaching a peak on Thursday and Friday with temperatures of 27C, 28C and 30C. The Met office yesterday said temperatures could even exceed 30C.

It said it is going to get more humid as the week goes on but the risk of showers was "minimal".

Asthma and hay fever suffers were warned pollen counts are very high.

The Irish Cancer Society said it is "vital" that people apply sun cream at all times.

"It is especially important to protect babies and children as much of the UV damage that leads to skin cancer takes place in the early years of life," a spokesperson said.

Sunday Independent

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