Most of us enjoy the hot weather, but when it’s too hot for too long there are potential health risks. Here is some information to help make sure the hot weather doesn’t harm you or the person you provide care and support to.
The very young, older people, people with restricted mobility and those with long term conditions are particularly at risk of health problems when the weather is very hot. In particular, very hot weather can make heart and breathing problems worse. Knowing how to keep cool during long periods of hot weather can help save lives. Most of the information is common sense but it can have a dramatic effect.
An average temperature of 30°C by day and 15°C overnight would trigger a health alert (this figure varies slightly around the UK). These temperatures can have a significant effect on people’s health if they last for at least two days and the night in between.
Why is a heatwave a problem?
As a PA it’s important you know the signs to look out for when someone is being seriously affected by the heat. The main risks posed by a heatwave are:
- Dehydration (not having enough water)
- Try to ensure the person you care for is having a balanced diet to help replace any salt lost by sweating. Encourage them to drink 6–8 glasses of liquid a day, and more if it’s hot.
- Be aware that some types of medication affect water retention.
Some of the early warning signs of dehydration include:
- feeling thirsty and lightheaded
- a dry mouth
- having dark coloured, strong-smelling urine
- passing urine less often than usual
- muscle cramps in arms, legs or stomach
- mild confusion, weakness or sleep problems.
If you see any of these symptoms, tried to get them to rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids. Seek medical advice if their symptoms persist or worsen
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- nausea or vomiting
- pale skin
- heavy sweating and a raised temperature
If you see any of these symptoms follow the advice for dehydration and:
- Find a cool place and loosen tight clothes.
- Encourage them to drink plenty of water or fruit juice.
- sponge them with cool water or, if possible, give them a cool shower.
- If their symptoms persist, call your GP or NHS 111 for advice.
Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated. It can also develop suddenly and without warning. The symptoms of heatstroke include:
- hot and red skin
- intense thirst
- a high temperature
- confusion, aggression and loss of consciousness
Heatstroke is a life threatening condition. If you or someone else shows symptoms call 999 immediately. Follow the advice given for heat exhaustion, but do not try to give fluids to anyone who is unconscious.
Tips for coping in hot weather
The following advice applies both to you as a PA working in these conditions and to the person you support.
- Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. If it’s safe, open them for ventilation when it is cooler.
- Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun and don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat.
- Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn’t possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
- Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
- Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and fruit juice. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol.
- Stay tuned to the weather forecast on the radio or TV, or on the Met Office website.
- Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
- Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool.
- Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat if you go outdoors.