Norfolk

Guide to coping with the heat

Written by Helen Burgess

Most of us look forward to the warmer weather and getting out in the sun. Here at age space Norfolk, we’re looking forward to taking advantage of our beautiful coast line. However, just like the cold – the hot weather can cause problems for older people, who can be particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

There’s lots of information available and it can be a bit mind boggling, especially if you’re a bit hot and bothered!  So our regional Manager Helen Burgess has sorted through it all and created this simple

10 step guide to ‘Staying Cool in the heat’ 

  1. When it’s hot, try thinking about restructuring your daily activity, to stay out of the sun during hottest parts of the day (usually 11am–3pm) and avoid strenuous physical activity or housework.
  2. Consider ways to keep your home cooler – keep curtains and blinds closed in rooms that catch the sun. There may be appliances in the house that are generating heat, so turn them off where possible.
  3. Eat a balanced diet to help your body replace any salt you lose by sweating.
  4. Try to have more cold foods, particularly salads and fruits as they contain a lot of water.
  5. Be careful when eating, especially outside. Hot weather causes bacteria to multiply quickly and increases our risk of food poisoning. Bring chilled food home quickly and put it straight in the fridge.
  6. Keep hydrated. Drink 6-8 glasses of water or fruit juices a day even if you’re not thirsty, and keep a bottle of water with you when you’re outdoors. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and drinks high in sugar.
  7. Limit drinks with caffeine and avoid alcohol as it can make dehydration worse.
  8. Wear a hat and loose-fitting, light-coloured clothes. Opt for open-toed sandals and avoid flip flops which can be hard to walk in. Sandals that fasten with Velcro are a good idea if your feet swell up in the heat.
  9. If you are going outside for some time, use sun cream of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 with four or five stars. Apply it generously and top up at least every two hours or straight after you’ve been in water. Check the use by date!
  10. Your eyes also need to be protected from the sun. Wear sunglasses that have a CE mark, UV400 label or a statement that they offer 100% UV (ultraviolet) protection.

If you stick to the above guidelines, you shouldn’t have any problems. However, just in case below you’ll find some information on health problems caused by hot weather and what signs to look out for?

Speak to your GP if you have a long-term condition such as diabetes, a heart or breathing problem as the heat can cause stress on your body and worsen your condition.

Dehydration

Extreme heat and dry conditions can cause you to dehydrate and your body to overheat.

Watch out for certain signs – particularly for muscle cramps in your arms, legs or stomach, mild confusion, weakness or sleep problems. If you have any of these, rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids.

It’s advisable to talk to your GP about medication as it might affect water retention.

Heat Exhaustion

The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, intense thirst, heavy sweating and a fast pulse.

If you have any of these symptoms you must, if at all possible:

  • find a cool place and loosen tight clothes
  • drink plenty of water or fruit juice
  • sponge yourself with cool (not cold) water.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated – it can also develop suddenly and without warning.

The symptoms of heatstroke include confusion, disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition. If you or someone else shows symptoms:

  • call 999 immediately, or 112 if you are in the European Union (you can call 112 from a mobile for free)
  • if you have a personal alarm, press the button on your pendant to call for help
  • while waiting for the ambulance, follow the advice given for heat exhaustion but do not try to give fluids to anyone who is unconscious.

If you need some advice on going on holiday with older relatives, click here to explore our Top Tips to a Great Holiday or find some great ideas for Holidays with Care for Older People

About the author

Helen Burgess