Sitting out in the garden, BBQ’s and enjoying that great British pastime – talking about the weather. We brits love a good moan about the weather. However, in the care industry, the weather can cause untold problems to our vulnerable residents in our care.
The hot weather can cause people to quickly become unwell through heatstroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration. This in turn can increase underlying health issues that may already make the resident vulnerable.
How do we care for each other during these hot days?
Firstly, we identify who is at risk.
There are certain factors that increase a person’s risk during hot weather. These include:
- Age: older individuals, especially those over 65 years as well as babies and young children.
- People living on their own, those who are socially isolated, those who are unable to look after themselves and those living in a care home.
- Medical conditions that reduce the body’s ability to adapt to heat, including cardiovascular, kidney and respiratory conditions, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, or severe mental illness.
- Medications that potentially affect heart or kidney function, cognition, or the ability to sweat.
- Any limitations to ability to adapt behaviour to keep cool, for example: cognitive impairment like dementia, restricted mobility, the use of alcohol or recreational drugs.
- Environmental factors such as living in a top floor flat, experiencing homelessness, physical activity that is outdoors or in hot places.
- Air pollution as this can become worse during hot weather and can cause problems for people with asthma and other breathing problems.
Make a plan.
Having a plan in place for yourself and anyone you are responsible for, to keep them cool and safe.
- Ensuring yourself and our care staff are familiar with this government guidance and know who is at higher risk of heat-related illnesses and how to reduce that risk.
- Consider environmental changes that could reduce exposure to heat, such as closing curtains to keep out the sun.
- Ensuring we all drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and monitor for signs of dehydration.
- Plan any activities for times of the day when it is cooler such as the morning or evening.
- Keeping out of the sun at the hottest time of the day between 11am and 3pm.
Learn how to recognise heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body overheats and can’t cool down. Heat exhaustion does not usually need emergency medical attention if the person cools down within 30 minutes. Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- feeling faint
- muscle cramps
- feeling or being sick
- heavy sweating
- intense thirst
If action is not taken to help the person to cool down, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.
Heatstroke is where the body is no longer able to cool down and the body temperature becomes dangerously high. Common symptoms of heatstroke include:
- lack of coordination
- low blood pressure
- fast heartbeat
- fast breathing or shortness of breath.
In addition, skin may stop sweating and someone may have seizures (fits) or collapse.
Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you are concerned or think someone has heatstroke you should dial 999.
How to cool someone down if they have symptoms of heat exhaustion:
1. Move them to a cooler place such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade.
2. Remove all unnecessary clothing like a jacket or socks.
3. Help them drink a sports or rehydration drink or cool water.
4. Apply cool water by spray or sponge to exposed skin; cold packs wrapped in a cloth and put under the armpits or on the neck can also help.
They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes. If you are concerned about symptoms, or they are worsening, seek medical advice by contacting NHS 111. In an emergency, or if you think someone has heatstroke, dial 999.
Further information on heat exhaustion and heatstroke symptoms can be found on NHS.UK
- Heat-Health Alert action card for providers
- Supporting vulnerable people before and during hot weather: guidance for healthcare professionals
- Beat the heat guidance
- Adverse Weather and Health Plan
- Adverse Weather and Health Plan: supporting evidence
- Weather-Health Alerting System: user guide
- NHS advice on heat exhaustion and heat stroke
- NHS advice on sunscreen and sun safety