People were left sweltering as temperatures rose yesterday – making it one of the hottest days of the year.
Temperatures reached as high as 26C in Sunderland with blue skies across Wearside.
Meanwhile, scores of people flocked to the coast at Seaham to enjoy the heatwave. However, while people had fun in the sun, health warnings were also being issued.
Dr Angie Bone at Public Health England said there could be more deaths than usual. She said it seemed “likely” that the Met Office would issue a level 3 heatwave alert, which requires community support for at-risk groups, media alerts about keeping cool and a review of safety at public events.
She added: “It is possible that we will see an excess mortality but it is too early to tell. We know that high temperatures do have an impact on health, particularly on older people and young children and people with chronic diseases.”
Vicky Barber from the British Lung Foundation Helpline said: “During hot weather, the air we breathe has lower moisture levels than usual, which can have a drying effect on our airways. As a result, people with respiratory conditions such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or severe asthma may find it harder to breathe, feel more tired, or find their lungs feeling heavy or tight.”
She recommended that people with lung conditions avoid going outside at midday, wear loose clothing and drink plenty of water.
Other vulnerable groups including the elderly and young children were also urged to stay cool as the hot weather pushes across the UK from Europe.
The heatwave is being caused by a warm front and tropical continental air mass from Europe pushing across the country, bringing high temperatures, humidity and possibly Saharan sand.
Temperatures are expected to soar again today, possibly breaking the record for July.
However, the dry spell could soon be cut short according to meteorologists, as the Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for rain and thunderstorms today.
Experts are predicting that Wearside has a chance of being hit by heavy rain between 4pm to 11.50pm, which may even cause flooding in some areas.
A Met Office spokesman said: “By Wednesday, a hot and increasingly humid air mass is expected to be in situ across much of the UK.
“This air mass looks conducive to isolated thunderstorm development during the afternoon and into the evening.
“With large amounts of energy available in the atmosphere, storms could be severe, with torrential downpours and hail of up to 1cm in size, 20 to 30 mm of rain is possible in less than an hour, with as much as 60 mm possible in three hours very locally.