With high temperatures forecast to continue in many parts of Northern Ireland over the coming days, Age NI is advising people to take extra care in the summer months and to look out for older neighbours, friends and relatives, particularly those living alone or with serious underlying health conditions.
Brenda Kearns, Age NI Advice and Advocacy Service, said, ‘The importance of staying cool and keeping well in hot weather cannot be over-estimated, with older people often being particularly susceptible to heat-related illness.
‘The most serious is heat stroke, a life-threatening condition which can develop suddenly if heat exhaustion is left untreated. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, intense thirst, heavy sweating and a fast pulse. Anyone with these symptoms must stay in a cool place and loosen tight clothes, drink plenty of water or fruit juice, sponge themselves with cool water or have a cool shower and call their GP for advice if their symptoms haven’t improved within 30 minutes of following the above advice.
‘It is also very important for older people to stay well hydrated in the heat since dehydration can cause urinary tract infections which are very common in later life and which can lead to confusion and falls.
‘Age NI offers a range of information and advice to help older people live well during the summer and protect themselves when the temperature heats up. Here are some of our top tips to staying cool and keeping well in the warmer weather:
Stay inside during the hottest time of the day – late morning to mid afternoon. If you do go out, use sunscreen of factor 15 or above, wear a hat and stay in the shade as much as possible.
When inside, try to keep your house cool. Keep curtains and blinds closed in rooms that catch the sun.
Avoid or limit strenuous activities like housework and gardening – try to do these activities in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler.
Drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day, even if you aren’t thirsty, and take a bottle of water with you if you have to go out. Limit drinks with caffeine and avoid alcohol as they can make dehydration worse.
Watch what you eat. Follow these tips to help you eat well during the warmer months. Eat normally but try to have more cold foods, particularly salads and fruits as they contain a lot of water.
Also be careful when eating, especially outside. Hot weather causes bacteria to multiply quickly and increases our risk of food poisoning. Avoid this by bringing chilled food home quickly from the shops and putting it straight in the fridge, making sure you don’t have food sitting in the sun for long periods.
Choose the right clothes. It may sound obvious, but light-coloured, loose cotton clothing can help you stay cool in the heat. Dark colours absorb the light and can make you feel even warmer.
Think about your feet. Allowing your feet to breathe is important when the weather is hot. Wearing open toe sandals is an excellent way to stop your feet getting sweaty and smelly. Avoid flip flops, which can be hard to walk in and opt for sandals which support your feet. Sandals that fasten with Velcro or adjustable straps are a good idea if your feet swell up in the heat.
Cool off with water. Splash your face with cool (not very cold) water or place a damp cloth on the back of your neck to help you cool off.
Check for weather forecasts and temperature warnings on TV, radio and online at www.metoffice.gov.uk
If you, or someone to know, lives alone, ask a relative or friend to visit or phone so that someone can check that you are not having difficulties during periods of extreme heat. It's important to be aware of friends and neighbours during a heat wave and to let people know if you are on your own and have any concerns. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated.
Last year, Age NI provided over 10,000 people with information and advice on a range of issues including benefits, housing options, care at home and care homes. There are a number of online guides available including Staying cool in a heatwave which offers helpful advice on how to protect yourself from the heat, heat-related illnesses and what to do when someone shows signs of it, Healthy living which is full of tips and advice to help maintain a healthy body and mind and Healthy eating, a guide to eating well all year round.