The arrival of days of sunshine and warmth is very welcome but unfortunately this can bring problems, especially for older people.

Last summer’s heatwave led to the deaths of 2,800 men and women aged 65 and over in England – a figure that has been increasing steadily over the last five years.

Re-engage is part of an extensive collaboration of environmental and social charities which is researching the impact of extreme weather conditions on older people.

Meryl Davies says: "Older people are disproportionately affected by extreme weather: Deaths from heat or cold are predominantly amongst older people. Older people also experience significant loneliness and social isolation which are exacerbated by extreme weather.”

Naturally we all want to enjoy these balmy days, especially as the sun can be so uplifting. But it’s important to know how to keep yourself cool, to be aware of those who may be isolated and less able to care for themselves and to understand the risk factors and symptoms.

Among the most vulnerable are those; aged 65 plus; older people living alone and anyone with a serious long-term illness, such as diabetes or heart or lung conditions.

The main risks during very hot days come from heat exhaustion, dehydration, sunburn and heatstroke which, according to the NHS can present in the following ways:

  • Headache.
  • Dizziness and confusion.
  • Loss of appetite and feeling sick.
  • Excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin.
  • Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach.
  • Fast breathing or rapid pulse.
  • A high temperature.
  • Being very thirsty.

If anyone starts showing signs of heatstroke call 999 to report a medical emergency.

With less serious heat exhaustion try staying in a shaded place, lie down with feet slightly raised, drink plenty of water and cool your skin with a sponge or spray. You should start to recover in half an hour but keep monitoring your condition and if necessary call 111 for further advice.

The best way to stay cool is to:

  • Keep hydrated - older people are more at risk of overheating. Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Keep homes cool by closing curtains and windows during the day. Open windows at night when it’s cooler.
  • Take plenty of water with you when travelling.
  • Stay in the shade – particularly between 11am and 3pm. If you have to go outside apply a high factor sunscreen and wear a hat.
  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing in light rather than dark colours.
  • Avoid heated appliances, including the oven by opting for lighter meals.

So, enjoy the summer but take the necessary precautions to get the best from the sunny days.

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