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Tips for coping with the hot weather

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It can’t have escaped your attention that the UK is currently in the middle of a massive heatwave! Whilst many will enjoy the warm weather, however, it’s important to take note of the risks to more vulnerable people.

Heatwaves are prolonged periods of unusually hot weather, going above the average temperature for the time of year. The current heatwave in Britain began towards the end of June and various reports suggest it could even last until August.

Throughout this extended period, the intense heat can bring a whole host of health risks with it, especially when we’re not particularly used to such weather. Keeping an eye on our relatives and neighbours may be crucial to ensuring they remain safe, happy and healthy, and steer clear of any serious problems developing.

From identifying those most at risk to recognising the early signs of any health problems, there are many different things we can do to make sure those around us keep cool can cope with the summer heat.

Most at risk

A heatwave can bring about feelings of exhaustion, dehydration and cause severe sunburn. While this can affect virtually anyone, those most at risk are the most vulnerable people in our society, including over 70s as well as babies and young children.

Others with chronic health conditions or limited mobility may face particular struggles on a daily basis because of the excessive heat. Things like poor circulation and breathing problems can be made worse when it’s too hot, so it’s important for those to remain as cool as possible.

Whether you’re a regular carer, family member or neighbour, keeping an eye on those a bit more vulnerable than ourselves helps us to recognise the symptoms of over-heating and step in to take any necessary measures.

The symptoms

Too much heat can often lead to exhaustion and fatigue. If a person starts to become extremely lethargic, experiences headaches, dizziness or begins to feel faint, it’s highly likely that the exhaustion is setting in. Excessive sweating and cold, clammy skin is also a prominent sign of the body working too hard to cool itself down.

If the heat gets too much, there is always the risk of heat stroke developing. This can be significantly dangerous for older people and is potentially life threatening if not dealt with quickly. You can identify signs of heat stroke if your loved one has a terribly high body temperature, rapid pulse and is hyperventilating. They may also seem confused and begin acting strangely.

Other early signs of heat-related illnesses can include developing heat rash and having irritable red skin, small red spots or even small blisters. If you do become concerned that an older person is showing these signs, it’s best to contact emergency services as soon as possible to get the right treatment and prevent them from getting worse.

How to beat the heat

It can be difficult to stay cool when the heat gets a bit too intense, but there are several things we can do to keep heat-related illnesses at bay. The obvious things include staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and using a fan if possible. Electric fans are extremely useful and commonly available from supermarkets and discount shops. You could also use an empty spray bottle filled with water to occasionally spritz a cool mist in the air above you to cool down.

If it’s cooler outside than inside, it may be a good idea to pop out for a bit of fresh air and enjoy a cool breeze. Whether it’s a short stroll or a spot of relaxing in the garden, remember to use sun cream and try to stay in shaded areas if the sunlight is strong. The sunshine is generally at its hottest and strongest between the hours 11am – 3pm, so try to avoid this period if you can.

For those preferring to stay indoors, try to identify the coolest room in the home at different times of the day. East facing rooms will get strong sunlight during the mornings, while rooms with south or west facing windows can heat up as the day goes on. If possible, keep blinds or curtains closed, but remember that lighter curtains are better as dark curtains will absorb the heat and make rooms hotter.

 

However you and your loved ones plan to keep cool during the heatwave, it’s vital to recognise when either a vulnerable or frail person – or even you yourself – may be in need of help. Seeking help from your GP or calling the emergency helpline 111 is always a good start.

For further information, this guide from the NHS website should give you all you need to know.

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