As we get older, our bodies react differently to hot weather which can make us more susceptible to health issues or illness. But by following a few simple steps and planning ahead you can stay safe and cool this summer.
Who is at risk during a heatwave?
It is possible that the hot weather can affect our health no matter who we are. However, the groups most at risk during a heatwave are:
• Older people
• Babies and young children
• Those with long term health conditions, especially heart problems
• Those who work outdoors
• Those with mobility issues
What are the health risks for older people in a heatwave?
A heatwave poses a number of risks to our health.
Exposure to high temperatures can cause a number of short term effects such as:
• Fatigue and exhaustion
While these side effects are often temporary and go away on their own, there are a number of conditions that could be far more long term, such as:
• Dehydration - this happens when your body loses more fluid than it takes in, and can result in feeling tired, dry mouthed and dizzy. Follow NHS guidelines on dehydration to ensure you receive treatment urgently if you suspect you may be suffering with it.
• Overheating – your body can overheat after prolonged periods in the sun or high temperatures, sometimes causing nausea, dizziness and prickly skin.
• Heatstroke – heatstroke happens when the core body temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius, and can be potentially fatal to those who experience it.
• Skin cancer – skin cancer occurs when UV light damages the skin cells, with repeated sunburn and exposure to the sun dramatically increasing the risk of developing it.
• Heat-related deaths – sometimes, exposure to heat can be fatal and is often blamed for a spike in the number of deaths in the summer months in the UK.
It’s important to take the steps necessary to avoid experiencing any of these potentially life threatening health issues during a heatwave.
How can older people stay cool in a heatwave?
1. Drink plenty to avoid dehydration
Drink cool drinks and eat foods with high water content such as cucumbers, watermelons and tomatoes. If you’re going out, remember to carry a bottle of cold water with you and keep drinking throughout the day.
Avoid having too much alcohol or drinks with high caffeine content.
2. Stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day
Stay inside during 11am – 3pm when temperatures are at their highest and we are most at risk.
If you have to be outside during these times, try to stay in the shade.
3. Wear loose clothing
Wearing loose, light-coloured and lightweight clothing will keep you cooler in the hotter weather.
Avoid tight jeans and keep the number of layers to a minimum.
Remember to wear a hat to protect your head from the sun.
4. Take cool baths and showers
Cool down by splashing yourself with cold water, or have a cool bath or shower.
5. Apply sun cream to help protect your skin
Getting sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer, so it’s important to apply plenty of sun cream to protect yourself against UV rays.
Use at least an SPF 15 and apply it generously, remembering to reapply if you’ve been in water or heavily sweated.
6. Keep your home cool
Keep your blinds down to reduce the amount of sun and install electric fans if possible. Remember – as tempting as it is to open all the doors and windows when it’s hot, keeping the hot air out is the best way to keep your house cool! When the sun has gone down and it’s cooler you can open windows and doors to let the breeze and fresh air in.
7. Check in on your neighbours and loved ones
Remember, check on your neighbours and loved ones and anyone else who you feel may be vulnerable in this weather.
Stay safe and seek urgent medical advice if you feel you or a loved one has been affected by the hot weather.
Save and share our infographic to help older people stay cool and safe in a heatwave