Impact of drought on public health: advice for the public

There are several health impacts associated with drought. The health consequences are related to dehydration, increased transmission of infectious diseases and poorer mental health. During extended periods of little rain, we may be asked to reduce unnecessary water use, for example by not washing our cars or watering our gardens or filling swimming pools with a hose. If the situation escalates, water resources may need to be further conserved, with use limited to essential needs such as drinking, cooking and hygiene practices. There are things we can all do to protect ourselves from the potential health consequences of drought.


stay informed

Be aware of and follow any restrictions on water use, eg hose bans.

Sign up with your local water company to receive notifications.

If interruptions or changes in supplies occur (such as a reduction in water pressure), contact your water company to let them know.

Vulnerable consumers should contact their water company to sign up for their Priority Services Registry (PSR) so that they could get extra help and support, for example, the delivery of bottled water.
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Maintain hygiene during a dry period

Please continue to wash your hands and maintain hygiene regardless of dry conditions as it is a very effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
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Keep hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids, especially in hot weather. Avoid alcohol. Everyone is at risk of becoming dehydrated in high temperatures. People with pre-existing health conditions, the elderly, outdoor workers, outdoor athletes, and the very young are particularly at risk.
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take care of your mental health

Drought can have an impact on mental health. Drought periods can be stressful, especially for those whose livelihoods or jobs depend on water.

Seek support from family and friends, or support organizations, if you are having difficulty.
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Reduce breathing problems

Keep an eye out for any air quality updates. Carry an inhaler with you if you use one.

Drought conditions can increase the amount of dust in the air, which can potentially affect people with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
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Use water efficiently

Use water responsibly and avoid waste.

This helps save water resources for the environment. In a severe drought, it also helps ensure that there remains enough water for people’s essential needs.
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1. Stay informed

Regularly check your water company’s website, social media, and media outlets for tips and guidance on water use and to stay abreast of the latest situation.

Report changes in the color, taste, or pressure of your tap water to your water company.

Ask that it be put on your water company’s bill. Registration of Priority Services if you think you may need extra help, for example if you are older, have a health problem or have an existing disability.

If you have a private water supply, know where to go for help and advice if you need it. the Potable Water Inspection (DWI) has more guidance on managing private water supplies.

Check in with your local authority and social services if you need support.

Keep in mind that drought can cause rivers, lakes, and streams to have lower than normal water levels. During very hot and dry conditions, follow messages at popular recreation areas about possible health hazards, such as diving.

2. Maintain hygiene during a dry period

Please continue to maintain good hand hygiene as it is a very effective way to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases. Wash your hands at least when:

  • get home or to work
  • blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing
  • eating or handling food

Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose until you have washed your hands.

You should wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.

If there are no handwashing facilities, use hand sanitizing gel or sanitizing wipes.

Continue washing food and kitchen utensils as normal.

Take showers instead of baths, when possible. This will help save water.

3. Stay hydrated

Make sure you continue to drink sufficient amounts of water. Do not reduce your water intake in an attempt to conserve water. You should be informed of any problems with your water supply, so continue to use tap water for drinking unless instructed not to. If there is an interruption in your water supply, your water company will provide you with an alternate supply of water.

Always carry water with you when traveling during hot weather.

Drought often occurs during a period of hot weather. Heat can affect anyone, but some people are at higher risk of serious harm, including:

  • Old people
  • infants and toddlers
  • people with a serious chronic disease
  • people with serious mental health problems or who take certain medications
  • people who are physically active outdoors
  • homeless people.

Be on the lookout for neighbors, family or friends who may be isolated and unable to care for themselves; make sure they can stay cool. Stay out of the heat, cool off, keep your surroundings cool, or find another place that is cool. More information is available of the NHS and in the Heatwave Plan for England, developed by UKHSA.

Using bottled water with infant formula is not recommended unless tap water is not available, as it is generally not sterile (does not contain bacteria) and may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulfate. If bottled water should be used for formula:

  • boil the water (1 minute recommended) before use to make sure it is sterilized and let it cool down (to room temperature)
  • check the label to make sure there is less than 200 milligrams (mg) per liter of sodium (Na) and no more than 250 mg per liter of sulfate (SO4)

4. Take care of your mental health

For those whose livelihoods or jobs depend on water and the environment, drought conditions can bring feelings of distress and anxiety. If you’re not feeling well, reach out to friends and family for support or visit NHS Every mind matterswhich has helpful tips on how to manage anxiety and stress.

If you are concerned about your mental health and well-being, you can also access support by:

5. Reduces respiratory problems

If you use an inhaler, be sure to take it with you during hot, dry spells. This is important because during dry periods, air quality can be poor and pollen levels can also be high, which can affect respiratory conditions.

Forest fires often occur during dry periods, and the smoke and ash from such fires can affect respiratory conditions. If wildfire smoke is affecting the air quality in your area, keep your windows and doors closed.

Find the latest air pollution forecast on the UK Air website.

6. Use water efficiently

If there are restrictions on water use in your area, follow the instructions provided.

Use water efficient devices in your home and garden. Your water company can give you advice on how to order and install them. Many water companies also offer free water saving devices. Gardening tips are available at water uk.

Take simple steps to save water, such as fixing leaks, turning off faucets while brushing your teeth, and using only a full load in the washing machine. If possible, take a shower instead of a bath and use garden water responsibly.

Find other water saving ideas from Water UK It pays to save water Y sage in the water.

More information

Find your water company in the Council of Water Consumers.

Find reports on the water situation at the Environment Agency.

the DWI‘s Private water supplies.

Weather forecast and health warnings of high temperature in the Meteorological office website.

UK-AIR: health advice for those who may be particularly sensitive to air pollution, via UK-Air website or call 0800 55 66 77.

A hot, dry period can be associated with a heat and health alert. More information can be found in the UKHSA Heat wave plan for England.

water uk They have a variety of information and tips for using water efficiently.

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