Do you know how to keep safe during extremely hot weather? As in recent years, when temperatures rise, the Met Office shares warnings of the dangerously high heat levels and encourages everyone to keep safe. Read on for our tips and advice on how to protect you and your loved ones during the hot weather.
A sad reality of extremely hot weather is increased fatalities among vulnerable people. A total of 2,803 people aged over 65 died due to the heat in England during 2022, and it's predicted that the number of heat-related deaths per year may triple by 2050. In July 2022 temperatures exceeded 40°C for the first time.
Hot weather can cause more vulnerable individuals to become unwell through dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke and can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, lung problems and other diseases.
Who is at risk?
Older people and those with underlying medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of hot weather. This means that people living in care homes, those who are unable to care for themselves or those who require support in their daily activities are at higher risk of becoming unwell from the hot weather.
There are certain factors that increase a person's risk during hot weather. These include older individuals, especially those over 65 years old, as well as babies and young children.
How to recognise heat exhaustion and heatstroke?
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body overheats and can't cool down. Heat exhaustion does not usually need emergency medical attention if the person cools down within 30 minutes.
Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Feeling faint
- Muscle cramps
- Feeling or being sick
- Heavy sweating
- Intense thirst.
If action is not taken to help the person cool down, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke is where the body is no longer able to cool down by itself and the body temperature becomes dangerously high.
What should you do if someone has symptoms of heat exhaustion?
- Move them to a cooler place such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade.
- Remove all unnecessary clothing like a jacket or socks.
- Help them rehydrate by giving them a drink or cool water.
- Apply cool water by spray or sponge to exposed skin; cold packs wrapped in a cloth and put it under their armpits or on their neck.
They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.
How can you prevent dehydration?
Drink enough fluids throughout the day. If you care for a vulnerable person, support them to drink throughout the night. They should drink enough so that their urine is a pale straw colour.
Check that water and ice are widely available and make sure those you care for are drinking enough fluids, particularly if they are unable to drink unaided.
Water and diluted squash or lower fat milks are good choices. Limit fruit juice, smoothies, and soft drinks, which can be high in sugar and dehydrate the body. Instead swap for diet and sugar-free varieties or squash.
Lollies and water-rich foods may be alternatives for individuals who do not drink much fluid.
Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body, so it is a good idea to choose alcohol-free options, or alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water.
If those you care for are going out, take a refillable bottle filled with water.
Stay out of the sun – especially between 11am to 3pm
The sun is often strong enough in the UK to cause sunburn. Support those you care for by
Avoiding staying outside during the hottest part of the day, which is between 11am-3pm.
Keep your home environment cool
Homes can overheat and become uncomfortable during warmer weather, particularly when people are trying to sleep. During the hottest periods, check indoor temperatures are monitored and recorded regularly.
It's best to close windows early in the morning so that the heat does not build up. Open windows when the air feels cooler outside than inside e.g. at night to get the air flowing through the home.
Check that any heating is turned off and turn off lights and electrical equipment that are not in use to reduce indoor temperatures.
In summary, these are our top tips for staying safe in the heat…
Stay out of the heat
- Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
- If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf
- Avoid extreme physical exertion
- Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
Remember to cool yourself
- Have plenty of cold drinks, and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks
- Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high-water content
- Take a cool shower
- Sprinkle/spray water over the skin or clothing or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.
Look out for each other
- Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool
- Ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary vehicles e.g. cars
- Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave
- Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is unwell or further help is needed.
- Try to get help if you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and headache
- Move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature
- Drink some water or fruit juice to rehydrate
- Rest immediately in a cool place if you have painful muscular spasms
- Drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes
- Medical attention is needed if heat cramp last more than one hour
- Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist.