Britain’s elderly are being urged to take extra care this week as a heatwave is set to bring the highest temperatures of the year.

As you will be aware, during a heatwave when temperatures remain abnormally high over a period of time, it can prove fatal, particularly among certain at-risk groups. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that clients experiencing extreme levels of heat are being looked after during a heatwave. In particular, those with cardiac and respiratory illnesses, frail and older people, vulnerable adults (including those with learning and/or physical disabilities, severe mental health, alcohol and drug addictions).

Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.

  • Stay out of the sun – If you must be out in the heat don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) , plan your activities so that you are outdoors either before noon or in the evening. While outdoors, rest frequently in a shady area.and .
  • Have cool baths or showers – and splash your face with cool (not very cold) water, or place a damp cloth on the back of your neck to help you cool off.
  • Stay in the coolest parts of your home – especially when sleeping. Keep curtains and blinds closed in rooms that catch the sun. Remember that lights generate heat so turn them off when possible. Keep windows shut while it’s cooler inside than out. If it’s safe, you could leave a window open at night when it’s cooler. Fans can help sweat evaporate but don’t cool the air itself, so don’t rely on them to keep you well in the heat.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen – Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. In the hot sun, a wide-brimmed hat will keep the head cool. Use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Drink lots of fluid – even if you aren’t thirsty. Aim for 6–8 glasses a day and more if it’s hot. If you usually rely on drinks with caffeine in them, such as tea, coffee or cola, limit these and have water, fruit juice or decaf drinks instead. Avoid alcohol as it can make dehydration worse.
  • Eat normally – even if you aren’t hungry, you need a normal diet to replace salt loss from sweating. In addition, try to have more salads and fruit, as these contain a lot of water. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals as they add heat to your body.
  • Food hygiene – Bacteria on food can multiply quickly in hot weather, which increases the risk of food poisoning. Put chilled food in the fridge straightaway. Keep it in cool bags when taking it home from the shops or out for a picnic. Don’t leave food out in a warm room or in the sun.
  • Stay tuned – to the weather forecast on the radio or TV, or on the Met Office website.
  • Plan ahead – to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
  • Pets – Bring your pets indoors with you to protect them. Give your outdoor animals plenty of fresh water, leave the water in a shady area, and consider wetting the animal down.
  • Remember – to check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.

If someone feels unwell, get them somewhere cool to rest. Give them plenty of fluids to drink. Seek medical help if symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, weakness, dizziness or cramps get worse or don’t go away.

NHS 111
The NHS 24-hour helpline is for advice on urgent but non-life threatening symptoms, including those caused by heat-related illness. Calls to 111 are free from landlines and mobiles.

More information can be found at these websites:

Met Office Heat Health Watch

Age UK: Staying cool in a heatwave