Tips on how the elderly can deal with hot weather

Tips for staying safe in hot weather

Here in Britain, we don’t get a lot of hot weather, so it’s easy to be underprepared when it happens.

For most people, heat and humidity is a discomfort. But for elderly people, and people with pre-existing health conditions, hot weather has a much bigger risk. High temperatures can exacerbate heart problems and make breathing problems worse. People with mobility issues can find it much more difficult to get around. And for people who take certain medications – those that affect sweating or the ability to control body temperature, for example – hot weather can be particularly dangerous.

The biggest risks are dehydration (not drinking enough water), overheating and heat exhaustion, which can lead to heat stroke. However, many of the symptoms – like headaches, confusion, dizziness and a lack of energy – can be easy to miss in older people, especially if they have conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

We’ve put together a few simple tips to make sure you and your loved ones can be prepared and prevent risk when the sun finally appears.

Five tips to plan for a heatwave

  • Watch or listen to the weather forecast. It sounds obvious but if there’s a heatwave on the way, you can make sure you’re ready for it before it’s an issue.
  • Shop in advance or online when a heatwave is predicted, so you don’t have to go out in the sun. Once the heat goes up, going out won’t just be more effort – it could be more dangerous.
  • Keep drinks in the fridge. Bottled waters, ready-made fruit cordials and squash are all great to have on hand when it’s hot. Having them ready-cooled will feel like a luxury!
  • Make a ‘cold water bottle’. Got an old hot water bottle? Fill it and put it in the freezer so that you can take advantage of it during those hot nights. (The same precautions apply, though – close it tightly and don’t put the frozen bottle directly on your skin – make sure it’s covered.)
  • Have emergency phone numbers ready: programme them into your mobile or note them down next to the home phone. Dehydration and heat exhaustion can creep up on you, so if you feel at all unwell, don’t wait – call someone right away.

Five tips for staying safe during a heatwave

  • Drink lots of fluids – more than you think. Your body needs to replenish the moisture lost through perspiration. Water is best, but most soft drinks – cordials, tea – will cool you down and help to prevent dehydration.
  • Stay out of the sun, especially between about 11am and 3pm. If you do venture outside, stay in the shade. The gardening can wait until early evening!
  • Wear loose, light cotton clothing. Allowing the air to circulate around your body will help to keep you a little cooler. If you must go outside, apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Splash yourself with cold water throughout the day. Your body should naturally sweat when it’s warm, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to help it along a bit. If you can’t bring yourself to take a shower, a little cold water on your wrists, chest and neck can cool you down quite quickly.
  • During the day, draw the curtains or blinds in rooms that face the sun, so they can absorb (or even reflect) the heat. If the air outside is hotter than inside, keep the windows closed – you can open them at night to allow the cooler air to circulate.

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