Warning: sweltering may be bad for your health

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The Great British Public loves nothing more than to talk about the weather and discuss its aches and pains, and this year the two favourite topics of conversation have come together in perfect harmony as medical experts warned yesterday that the hot weather is bad for the nation's health.

What's more the subject looks set to run and run as the sweltering heat is set to continue for most of the week, according to forecasters.

Temperatures reaching nearly 90F (32C) in parts of the country during the last few days have sparked a corresponding rise in breathing problems, chest pains and other complaints exacerbated by dehydration including kidney stones.

Dr Rosemary Morton, spokeswoman for Manchester Royal Infirmary, said the Accident and Emergency department has also been treating many more cases of assault caused by the hot spell.

"The heat makes everybody uncomfortable and the aggravation leads to more injuries from assault," she said.

"Also people tend to drink more, and of course that includes alcohol which leads to other problems as well."

"On a busy day we would see maybe 170 people but in the last couple of days we've seen in excess of 225."

Dr David Snashall, clinical director of occupational health services at Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals, London, said short bursts of hot and humid weather could trigger heart attacks in the elderly and cause insomnia and discomfort.

"Tiny babies and the elderly find it hardest to cope with spells of hot weather," he said.

The National Asthma Campaign also warned that sudden changes in weather can trigger serious respiratory problems for asthmatics.

Spokeswoman Marsha Williams said that in a recent survey of asthma sufferers, 60% claimed that weather changes affected their condition "quite a lot or even a great deal".

But she added that some asthmatics "will get more wheezy and breathless in this humid weather whereas others would find it more difficult to cope with a cold snap," she said.

Temperatures are likely to remain high over the next few days, which means that even if the topic of Diana and Dodi is exhausted there will still be plenty of scope to talk about the weather.