Home In focus Look after yourself and others during hot weather

Look after yourself and others during hot weather

by Laura Johnston

The Department of Health has launched its Summer Heatwave Plan to help us ‘Beat the Heat’.

While many people may enjoy the sunny weather, high temperatures can be dangerous for others, such as the elderly and young children.

The plan aims to help people prepare for, and prevent, the major avoidable effects of severe heat on health, particularly for vulnerable groups, many of who may be at greater risk because they are shielding or self-isolating.  There’s also tailored advice during the Covid pandemic to help care home staff help their residents stay cool.

The plan features a series of alerts from 0 to 4, with level 4 being the most extreme weather.

During the rising temperatures, extra care and attention should be given to a number of people who may find the hot weather difficult.  These include:

  • Older people, especially those over 75
  • Babies and young children
  • People with serious mental health problems
  • Those who find it difficult to adapt behaviour to keep cool, for example people suffering from Alzheimer’s, have a disability or are bedbound
  • People with a serious chronic condition, particularly breathing or heart problems – and those on certain medications
  • People who already have a high temperature from an infection
  • People who misuse alcohol or take illicit drugs
  • People with mobility problems
  • People who are physically active, like manual workers and athletes

There’s also advice about what to do now, before hot weather:

  • shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight. External shutters or shades are very effective, internal blinds or curtains are less effective but cheaper and easier to install
  • check that windows or vents can be opened and the central heating system can be turned off
  • grow plants inside and outside to provide shade and help cool the air
  • check that fridges, freezers and fans are working properly
  • check medicines can be stored according to the instructions on the packaging
  • If insulating or refurbishing your home, ask for advice about reducing overheating
  • consider overheating risk if buying or renting, particularly for vulnerable people

And when the temperatures start to rise we can take action by:

  • shading or covering windows exposed to direct sunlight
  • take a break from the heat by moving to a cooler part of the house (especially for sleeping)
  • remember that it may be cooler outside in the shade or in a public building (such as places of worship, local libraries or supermarkets); consider a visit as a way of cooling down
  • open windows (when it is safe to do so) when the air feels cooler outside than inside, for example, at night. Try to get air flowing through the home
  • check that central heating is turned off
  • turn off lights and electrical equipment that isn’t in use

For more information on how to stay safe in hot weather, call NHS 111 or visit NHS Choices. There’s more information about the plan here.