Hot Weather Safety for the Elderly

The heat can take a toll on everyone, but the elderly are particularly vunerable

Elderly people, specifically those over 75 are more vulnerable to hot weather when compared to younger adults and this can become a serious problem throughout the summertime, causing health issues that can be fatal. It is important to know what you can do about keeping elderly people safe and what to look out for if they do become exposed to the heat for too long.

Signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses in the elderly

Being too hot for too long can cause multiple illnesses all grouped under hyperthermia. Below are some of the illnesses caused by heat:

Heat Syncope – Heat syncope is sudden dizziness that can happen whilst a person is being active in the heat. If a person is not used to the heat or takes beta-blockers for their heart, then they are even more likely to feel faint. To make the sudden dizziness go away, move the person to a cooler area with a glass of water and their feet raised up off the ground.

Heat Edema – Heat edema is the swelling of feet and ankles when a person gets hot. To prevent this, put the persons feet up off of the ground and the swelling should reduce. If the swelling does not go down quickly, make sure they check with their doctor as this could be due to something more serious.

Heat Exhaustion – heat exhaustion tries to warn the body that it can no longer keep itself cool. Someone feeling heat exhaustion may feel dizzy, weak, thirsty, nauseous and uncoordinated. Even though the person’s body temperature may be relatively normal, they will feel clammy and cold, but still sweaty.

It is also known that some people who have heat exhaustion may have a rapid pulse alongside the other symptoms. Rest them in a cool place and make sure they drink lots of water. If they are not feeling better, make sure they seek medical help as heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.

Heat Cramps – Heat cramps are the tightening of muscles in the arms, stomach and legs which can be painful. Cramps can be a result of exercise and can feel like the body is moist and cool, despite the body temperature and pulse staying relatively normal. Similar to the other symptoms above, seek shade to rest and try to cool their body down. Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids (not caffeine or alcohol).

Heat Stroke – Heat stroke requires medical attention straight away. Elderly people who live in a home without fans or air conditioning are at the most risk of this. The signs of heat stroke are:

  • Confusion and acting strangely
  • Agitation and grouchiness
  • Becoming unconscious or fainting
  • Body temp of over 40°C (104°F)
  • Either a slow weak pulse or a rapid pulse
  • Dry, flushed skin and no sweating even when it is hot


How to keep the elderly safe in hot weather

Things elderly people can do to reduce their risk of illnesses due to heat:

  • Drink lots of fluids such as water and fruit juices. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Keep their house as cool as possible. Limit the use of the oven and other appliances that radiate heat, keep the blinds/curtains closed throughout the hottest part of the day and keep windows open overnight.
  • Try to ask for a lift from friends or family or take a taxi to locations rather than waiting at the bus stop in the heat.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather by wearing natural fabrics, such as cotton, rather than synthetic fabrics that are not as breathable.
  • Try to do minimal exercise and don’t exercise outdoors when it is hot.
  • Avoid heavily crowded places by planning trips outside of rush hour times.

How can I stay cool when I’m out and about?

  • Try to avoid spending too much time outside or exercising during the hottest part of the day (between 11am and 3pm), and try to keep in the shade where you can.
  • Wear a sun hat and carry a bottle of water with you.
  • Wearing light-coloured, lightweight cotton clothing can help keep you cooler than wearing dark-coloured and thick clothing.
  • Keep an eye on the forecast for any hot weather warnings or unseasonably warm weather
  • Make sure you apply sun cream. You should use at least SPF 15 and apply it regularly. Make sure you don’t miss any spots – it can be easy to forget bald patches, for instance.
  • UV levels can still be harmful when it’s cloudy out, so be careful even when it’s not sunny.
  • Talk to your optician about prescription sunglasses. Make sure any sunglasses you wear have a CE mark and UV40 label.

How can I stay cool when I’m at home?

  • Keep blinds down and windows closed when it’s cooler inside than out.
  • A cool bath or shower, or a damp cloth or a splash of water on the back of your neck can be better at cooling you down than a fan.
  • Most medication should be kept below 25°C – so it might be best to keep it in the fridge when it’s really hot.
  • Check your skin every few months and keep an eye on any moles. If you notice any changes to their colour or shape, or if they bleed, don’t hesitate to go and talk to your doctor.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated, but avoid alcohol as it can dehydrate you.
  • Keep eating even if you’re not feeling too hungry. Try to eat more food that’s cold and has a lot of water in it, like fruit or salad.

03.07.2023 / Rebecca Tilby – Registered Manager 

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