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Advice on keeping cool in a heatwave

Staying cool in a heatwave. Advice for the elderly and vulnerable

As we approach another promised British heatwave, the UK government will be publicising its advice to protect the vulnerable, and ideas to keep everyone well in hot weather.

Care homes and hospitals are advised to provide cool areas and monitor indoor temperatures to reduce the risk of heat-related illness.

GPs, district nurses and social workers should be identifying vulnerable patients and clients and providing them with heatwave information.

Registered providers of housing have been asked to encourage wardens and caretakers to keep an eye out for vulnerable tenants during heatwaves, and to consider measures to promote environmental cooling such as tree planting on their estates and building design.

Here’s the official advice to help everyone, but especially more vulnerable people, survive the hot weather successfully.

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.

Cool down

  • 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, bath or body wash.
  • Sprinkle water over your skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.

Keep your environment cool

Keeping living space cool is hugely important.

  • Place a thermometer in the main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature.
  • Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day, and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
  • Close curtains in rooms that get morning or afternoon sun. Bear in mind though that metal blinds and dark curtains can absorb heat, so consider replacing or putting reflective material in-between them and the window space.
  • Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment as they generate heat.
  • Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air.
  • If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping.
  • Electric fans may provide some relief, if temperatures are below 35°C.

Managing health problems

  • Keep medicines below 25 °C or in the refrigerator (read the storage instructions on the packaging).
  • Seek medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.

Feeling unwell?

  • Try to get help if you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and a 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 (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen), and drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes. Medical attention is needed if heat cramps last more than one hour.
  • Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist.

Planning for the longer term

  • Consider putting up external shading outside windows.
  • Use pale, reflective external paints.
  • Have your loft and cavity walls insulated – this keeps the heat in when it is cold and out when it is hot.
  • Grow trees and leafy plants near windows to act as natural air-conditioners.

You can find more information about the hot weather strategy on the UK government website.

Article compiled by Kathy Lawrence, editor at When They Get Older.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

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