How To Help Elderly Cope During A Heatwave



The UK may be known for its mild climate, but that does not mean that hot weather should not be expected. The British summer time has been known to reach temperatures of 30+ degrees Celsius, with our hottest summer day coming in at a scorching 35.3 degrees Celsius on the 26th of July 2018. Even though we all love a bit of heat, it can lead to heat-related illness and can heavily affect elderly people as well as those with chronic illnesses. Some people are more susceptible to heat related illnesses than others and, therefore, will need more care and attention during the hot summer months. These people include, but are not limited to:

  • Elderly people - especially those over 75

  • Those who live on their own or in care homes

  • People who have serious long-term illnesses/conditions (diabetes, lung conditions, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s etc.)

  • People on specific medication that affects sweating and temperature control (diuretics, antihistamines, beta-blockers, anti-psychotics etc.)

  • People who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places (e.g. top floor flat)


There are 2 main heat related illnesses to look out for during the summer months. They are Heat exhaustion and Heatstroke. Heat exhaustion is where you feel very hot and start to lose water or salt from your body. Common symptoms include:

  • Weakness

  • Feeling faint

  • Headache

  • Muscle cramps

  • Feeling sick

  • Heavy sweating

  • Intense thirst


Heatstroke is where the body is no longer able to cool itself and a person’s body temperature becomes very high. Heat stroke is less common than heat exhaustion, but it is more serious and untreated symptoms include:

  • Confusion

  • Seizures

  • Loss of consciousness


What should you do if you notice someone has the signs of a heat-related illness:

  • Get them to lie down in a cool place e.g. a room with air conditioning, or somewhere in the shade.

  • Remove any unnecessary clothing to expose as much skin as possible.

  • Cool their skin with cold water. You could also use a cold, wet sponge or a flannel.

  • Fan their skin while it is moist. This will help the water to evaporate, which will help their skin cool down. An electric fan could be helpful. But it is only effective in temperatures below 35 degrees Celsius. It is also advised that you do not use an electric fan if anybody in your household has Covid-19 symptoms.

  • Give them fluids to drink. Ideally you should give them water, lower fat milks, or a rehydration treatment.

  • Do not give them paracetamol or aspirin as this can put the body under more strain. However, you can continue to take all other prescribed medications unless advised not to by a medical professional.

  • You should stay with the person until they feel better. Most people should start to recover within 30 mins.

  • If you have concerns about the person suffering from heatstroke or heat exhaustion, contact the NHS on 111 for advice. If the person has not improved and symptoms become more severe you should call 999 for an ambulance.

Steps to take to prevent heat-related illness:

  • Close the curtains of windows at that are facing the sun – the glass windowpanes can magnify the sun’s rays making your room hotter. Do not do this if you have metallic blinds or dark curtains as this can raise the temperature of your room.

  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol.

  • Keep out of direct sunlight between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM

  • Wear sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat if going outside and walk in the shade where possible.

  • Do not leave any person or animal in a parked vehicle.

  • Stay cool indoors. However, if it is cooler outside than it is inside then find a place to sit outside in the shade, preferably in your garden.

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