Caring for others during a heatwave

During a heatwave, it is important to consider how you can help someone you care for. The tips below are small actions you can take to minimise the risk of health problems:

Keep out the heat

  • Keep curtains on windows exposed to the sun closed while the temperature outside is higher than it is inside.
  • Once the temperature outside has dropped lower than it is inside, open the windows. This may require late night visiting and such advice needs to be balanced by any possible security concerns.
  • Water external and internal plants, and spray the ground outside windows with water (avoid creating slip hazards) to help cool the air. (However, check local drought water restrictions before using hosepipes).
  • Advise anyone you care for to stay out of the sun, especially between the hours of 11.00am and 3.00pm.
  • Advise them to stay in the shade and to wear hats, sunscreen, thin scarves and light clothing if going outside.

Keep body temperatures down

  • Ensure that the person reduces their levels of physical exertion.
  • Suggest they take regular cool showers or baths, or at least an overall body wash.
  • Advise them to wear light, loose cotton clothes to absorb sweat and prevent skin irritation.
  • Suggest that they sprinkle their clothes with water regularly, and splash cool water on their face and the back of their neck. A damp cloth on the back of the neck helps temperature regulation.
  • Recommend cold food, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content.
  • Advise them to drink regularly, preferably water or fruit juice, but avoid alcohol and caffeine (tea, coffee, colas).
  • Monitor their daily fluid intake, particularly if they have several carers or are not always able to drink unaided.
  • Provide extra care
  • Keep in regular contact throughout the heatwave, and try to arrange for someone to visit at least once a day.
  • Keep giving advice on what to do to help keep cool.
  • During extended periods of raised temperatures ensure that persons over the age of 65 are advised to increase their fluid intake to reduce the risk of blood-stream infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria.

Be alert

  • As well as the specific symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, watch out for signs that could be attributed to other causes, such as:
  • difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, faintness and changes in behaviour;
  • increased body temperature;
  • difficulty breathing and increased heart rate;
  • dehydration, nausea or vomiting; or
  • worsening health problems, especially of heart or respiratory system