How to keep cool in a heatwave – 5 tips for elderly

UK weather: Storms set to hit after heatwave breaks

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The Met Office has issued amber and red heatwave warnings across the UK, with temperatures forecast to exceed 40C in some areas this week. Downing Street’s Saturday Cobra meeting to discuss the national heatwave saw Cabinet Office ministers urge the public to look out for those who are most vulnerable in the heat.

Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse said: “The key thing we can do is prepare the Government services for what may be a surge in demand – not least the health service and elsewhere – but also critically communicate that the first line of defence is actually individual behavioural change.

“People need to take care, do all the stuff they would do when it is very hot – wear a hat, drink water – but also with the most ­vulnerable groups – the elderly, those with cardiovascular problems and the very young – people look out for them and take care.”

TakingCare Personal Alarms conducted an analysis of the last five years of Government data and found that in total, 6,723 people have died due to heat-related illness in the summer months.

It estimates we may see a 257 percent increase in heat-related deaths and a two percent decline in cold weather deaths by 2050.

According to the Office of National Statistics, rising temperatures could actually see heat-related deaths treble by 2050, with vulnerable people such as elderly adults most at risk.

But with ambulance wait times already soaring to record highs, the pressure on paramedics during the heatwave could make it even harder to get help when needed.

Louise Yasities, home safety expert at TakingCare Personal Alarms, said: “Older people will likely want to get out and about when the weather is nice, but they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses which could well be fatal.”

With this in mind, Ms Yasities has provided five tips to help elderly adults keep cool in the stifling heat.

Stay hydrated

To stay safe in the sun, older adults should be consuming fluids consistently 

Ms Yasities said: “Elderly adults are more at risk of dehydration and overheating when it’s hot outside, so drinking the NHS-recommended six to eight glasses of water per day when temperatures soar will help counteract this.”

Keep to the shade

This one is pretty obvious, but while temperatures exceed 30C, avoiding direct sunlight as much as possible is most advisable during a heatwave.

Ms Yasities said: “Elderly adults should be encouraged to stay indoors when the sun is at its hottest, between the hours of 11am and 4pm.

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“If this isn’t possible, it’s important to stay in areas of shade and out of direct sunlight. Always wear a hat whenever outdoors and remember to take extra precautions if spending time in the garden.”

Reduce use of heated appliances

Where possible, it’s a good idea to avoid using the oven or stove when it’s hot outside as the added heat could increase the risk of getting a heat-related illness, especially among the vulnerable.

Ms Yasities said: “Slow cookers or air fryers are a great way to cook food without breaking a sweat. It’s also best to avoid dining al-fresco when the sun is in its hottest hours.”

Light-coloured clothing

Dark colours absorb more heat, further adding to an increasing body temperature.

Ms Yasities: “Older people should aim to wear lightweight, light-coloured cotton clothing items to help them keep cool.

“Avoid any heavy, synthetic materials and 100 percent UV protection sunglasses are a must, as older eyes can also have difficulty adjusting quickly to any changes in light to dark.”

Minimise additional temperatures

Finally, keeping the heat down at home is most important and there are several ways you can do 

  • Keep all windows closed during the day and only open them when the weather starts to cool down in the evening
  • Keep the curtains and blinds closed on sun-facing windows to minimise rising temperatures through the glass
  • Optimise airflow in the home by closing the doors to rooms that aren’t in use and only opening the doors to rooms with active fans – or windows allowing cool air through in the evening. This will help cool the right rooms down quicker
  • Place ice bowls in front of fans to create your own air-con, and put damp flannels in the freezer for short periods of time for quick relief.

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