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Older man and woman sitting in the sun

Most of us look forward to the warmer weather and getting out in the sun. But it’s important to be prepared for the hot weather as high temperatures can be dangerous to your health.

On this page we’ll look at:


How can I look after myself in the hot weather?

Very high temperatures and humidity can present a risk to our health, and we can be particularly susceptible to heat-related illness as we get older. Follow these steps to protect yourself:

  • Eat a balanced diet to help your body replace any salt you lose by sweating. Try to have more cold foods, particularly salads and fruits as they contain a lot of water.
  • Be careful when eating, especially outside. Hot weather causes bacteria to multiply quickly and increases our risk of food poisoning. Bring chilled food home quickly and put it straight in the fridge.
  • Keep hydrated. Drink 6-8 glasses of water or fruit juices a day even if you’re not thirsty, and keep a bottle of water with you when you’re outdoors.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear a hat and loose-fitting, light-coloured clothes. Opt for open-toed sandals and avoid flip flops which can be hard to walk in. Sandals that fasten with Velcro are a good idea if your feet swell up in the heat.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity or housework when it’s very hot.
  • Stay out of the sun during hottest parts of the day (usually 11am–3pm).
  • Consider ways to keep your home cooler. Keep curtains and blinds closed in rooms that catch the sun. There may be appliances in the house that are generating heat, so turn them off where possible.

Help older people in your community this summer

Longer days, lighter evenings and warmer weather mean that summer is the perfect time to get to know older people who might be prone to loneliness, especially if they live on their own following bereavement.


How can I protect my skin from sun damage?

Although it’s important to protect your skin, some direct exposure to the sun is essential for the production of vitamin D.

Getting the balance right for enough sun exposure to trigger vitamin D production without causing skin damage and increasing your risk of skin cancer is important. Don’t let your skin burn, but try to go outside once or twice every day without sunscreen for short periods from March to October.

If you are going outside for some time, use sun cream of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 with four or five stars. Apply it generously and top up at least every two hours or straight after you’ve been in water.

Sun cream has a shelf life of 2-3 years unopened. It may be labelled with a use-by date that applies once opened. The use-by symbol is an opened lid with the letter M and a number. This represents the number of months its protective formula remains active once opened.

Your eyes also need to be protected from the sun. Wear sunglasses that have a CE mark, UV400 label or a statement that they offer 100% UV (ultraviolet) protection.

If you have moles or brown patches on your skin, they usually remain harmless. But if they bleed or change size, shape or colour, show them to your GP without delay.

Find out more

Visit the NHS website to find out more about warnings signs of skin cancer.


What are some health problems caused by hot weather?

Be aware of the symptoms of common health problems experienced in summer so you can get medical help if you feel unwell.

Dehydration and overheating

Extreme heat and dry conditions can cause you to dehydrate and your body to overheat.

It’s important to eat a balanced diet to help your body replace any salt you lose by sweating. Aim to drink 6 – 8 glasses of liquid a day, and more if it’s hot. Limit drinks with caffeine and avoid alcohol as it can make dehydration worse.

You may also need to be careful if you’re taking some types of medication that affect water retention. Speak to your GP if you’re concerned.

Watch out for certain signs – particularly for muscle cramps in your arms, legs or stomach, mild confusion, weakness or sleep problems. If you have any of these, rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids.

If your symptoms persist or worsen, call your GP or NHS 111 for advice

Sunburn

Sunburn is caused by UV (ultraviolet) from the sun. The skin can become red, sore, tender or flaky. Too much UV can damage your skin cells and over time this can lead to skin cancer.

Heat exhaustion

The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, intense thirst, heavy sweating and a fast pulse.

If you have any of these symptoms you must, if at all possible:

  • find a cool place and loosen tight clothes
  • drink plenty of water or fruit juice
  • sponge yourself with cool (not cold) water.

Your symptoms should improve within 30 minutes. If you're feeling better but still have any concerns, call your GP or NHS 111 for advice.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated – it can also develop suddenly and without warning.

The symptoms of heatstroke include confusion, disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition. If you or someone else shows symptoms:

  • call 999 immediately, or 112 if you are in the European Union (you can call 112 from a mobile for free)
  • if you have a personal alarm, press the button on your pendant to call for help
  • while waiting for the ambulance, follow the advice given for heat exhaustion but do not try to give fluids to anyone who is unconscious.

If you have a long-term condition such as diabetes, a heart or breathing problem, then the heat can cause stress on your body and worsen your condition. Talk to your doctor about how best to manage your long-term condition in hot weather.



Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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