Who is at risk?

There are certain factors that increase an individual’s risk during a heatwave. These include:

  • Older age: especially those over 75 years old, or those living on their own and who are socially isolated, or in a care home.
  • Chronic and severe illness: including heart conditions, diabetes, respiratory or renal insufficiency, Parkinson’s disease or severe mental illness. Medications that potentially affect renal function, sweating, thermoregulation or electrolyte balance can make this group more vulnerable to the effects of heat.
  • Inability to adapt behaviour to keep cool: having Alzheimer’s, a disability, being bed bound, too much alcohol, babies and the very young.
  • Environmental factors and overexposure: living in a top floor flat, being homeless, activities or jobs that are in hot places or outdoors and include high levels of physical exertion.

During severe hot weather, there is a risk of developing heat exhaustion, heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses, including respiratory and heart problems. In a moderate heatwave, it is mainly the above high-risk groups that are affected. However, during an extreme heatwave, fit and healthy people can also be affected.

People with chronic or severe illness are likely to be at particular risk, including the following conditions:

  • Respiratory disease
  • Cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions
  • Diabetes and obesity
  • Severe mental illness
  • Parkinson’s disease and difficulties with mobility
  • Renal insufficiency
  • Peripheral vascular conditions
  • Alzheimer’s or related diseases