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Staying cool

While most of us love sunny weather, the heat can pose some serious health risks, especially for older adults and those with chronic health problems. It is vital during hot weather to make sure we stay cool to avoid getting heatstroke or dehydration.

What are the risks?

If you don't take the right precautions, being out in hot weather can lead to a number of problems, such as:

  • heat exhaustion
  • heatstroke
  • sunburn
  • dehydration
  • overheating - which can make breathing and heart problems worse

Heatstroke, dehydration and heat exhaustion can be very serious problems. If you or someone else is showing symptoms you should seek medical advice. A list of symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke can be found on NHS Choices.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can suffer the consequences of overheating during hot weather, but some people are particularly vulnerable to health problems in these conditions:

  • older people - especially those over 75
  • babies and young children
  • people with chronic medical problems (especially heart and lung problems)
  • people with serious mental illness
  • anyone who misuses or abuses alcohol or drugs
  • people who are very active
  • people with diabetes who use insulin
  • people on certain medications (such as medications for high blood pressure)
  • anyone who has mobility problems

If you live near someone who is vulnerable during hot weather then it would be good to check on them on a regular basis, and make sure they have everything they need.

How to cope in the hot weather

Here are a few tips for preparing for hot weather, and for dealing with it when it arrives:

  • if you know a heatwave is coming and are particularly vulnerable to high temperatures, then stock up on food, drink, and medication
  • think about buying a fan
  • stay inside during the hottest times of day (11am to 3pm) and close the curtains or blinds
  • stay in the coolest rooms in the house, and close curtains in rooms that get a lot of sun. Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside, and open them when the temperature inside rises or at night for ventilation
  • where you need to open windows, open them at different locations, leaving doors open to create a breeze through the house, to aid the cooling process
  • drink plenty of water, even if you don't feel especially thirsty. Try to keep a bottle with you when you go out, especially when using public transport. If you don't like plain water, add a little cordial or fruit juice
  • if you find that you lose your appetite during hot weather, make sure you still eat. Try eating light, cold foods like salads and fruit
  • avoid coffee, tea and alcohol - they will make you more dehydrated
  • use sunscreen lotion of at least factor 15 when you go outside, and follow the instructions on the bottle. Wear a hat!
  • avoid strenuous activity
  • wear light and loose-fitting cotton clothes
  • have cool or lukewarm baths or showers or splash yourself with water when you get too hot. Don't use ice-cold water as this can be too much of a shock to the system - just below body temperature is best
  • check the weather regularly so you can be prepared for a heatwave. You can find more information about this from the Met Office.

Do consult your GP if you feel you have difficulty dealing with hot weather, or it makes you feel unwell.

Other information and advice

The NHS Choices website provides some advice on preparing for a heatwave.

The Age UK website also has some tips for Staying Cool in a Heatwave

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