12 tips for keeping cool in hot weather for the elderly
The arrival of summer is welcomed with the celebration of longer days, sunshine and warmer temperatures. However, while many of us spend the cold winter days wishing for the excitement of hot summer days, when they arrive, we can find ourselves feeling uncomfortable and looking for ways to escape the heat.
With heat waves causing major concern across the globe each summer, it’s important to know how you can take action to protect yourself and your loved ones from hot temperatures. The NHS identifies several groups as more at-risk from heat-related issues, including those over 75 years, suffering with certain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or disease.
British homes are insulated to keep the heat from escaping, which means when the mercury rises the temperature indoors can quickly soar. So, when it gets scorching hot indoors and out, how can we protect ourselves from the heat?
With the elderly and young children more likely to experience the effects of hot temperatures, there are ways to make yourself more comfortable while also avoiding issues related to overheating. Here are our top tips for keeping cool in hot weather for the elderly.
- Keep hydrated
While keeping your hydration levels in a good place all the time should be a priority, when the temperatures rise there’s even greater reason to ensure you are drinking plenty of water. Your body undertakes a process called homeostasis, which regulates your body temperature, both in hot and cold weather.
To do this, in hot weather, sweating is part of the homeostatic process. Even if getting sweaty feels uncomfortable, it’s one of the body’s best ways to protect itself in hot weather. Keeping cool is much easier when you are hydrated because your body can regulate temperature better.
Cold water is a great go-to in hot weather, but most liquids will serve you well. It’s best to avoid any beverages with diuretic effects though, such as tea and coffee, as these will actually contribute to dehydration.
- Avoid the sun between 11 am and 3 pm
The sun is at its most powerful and therefore hottest between 11 am and 3 pm. This is the worst time to spend long periods out in direct sunlight. Instead, try to plan your day around the cooler hours in the morning or late afternoon if you need to be outdoors and can’t access shade.
If you must be active at this time, always carry water and dress appropriately to ensure you don’t overheat. It’s important to also wear a high SPF sunscreen, like factor 50 to reduce the risk of sunburn which can add to the risk of heat and sunstroke.
- Wear weather-appropriate clothing
One of the easiest ways to keep cool in hot weather is to dress in clothing that will help to protect you from overheating. Lightweight fabrics that are breathable, such as cotton, will help you avoid becoming hot and uncomfortable when the temperatures rise.
Loose-fitting clothes that will also allow air flow can contribute to keeping you feeling cooler on hot days too. It’s not just clothing though, accessories are also important in making you more comfortable during hot weather. Hats, especially styles with a broad brim, are a great way to protect you from the sun and sunglasses can prevent glare and UV damage to your eyes.
- Exercise during the cooler hours
If you plan on exercising while the mercury is pushing the upper limits, then it’s best to do it when the temperatures are cooler. Early morning is best, before the sun heats up temperatures throughout the day.
Temperatures take longer to come back down in the late afternoon, so it’s recommended to keep activity to the early morning where possible. This doesn’t just apply to higher intensity activities either, simply walking in very hot weather can cause heat stroke. It’s best to minimise activity while it’s hot throughout the middle of the day.
- Take a swim
Just like on holiday, having a swim can cool you down. If you are comfortable swimming, the sea or ponds can be a great place to escape the heat. It's important to ensure you follow all safety advice for swimming, especially in open water.
If you don’t have access to a body of water or aren’t comfortable swimming, a paddle pool in your garden even to wade ankle deep can help with keeping you cool in hot weather. Ensure you have shade provided to keep you out of the sun and follow the other tips, especially those related to sun protection and staying hydrated.
- Use cooling towels
You don’t need to purchase any fancy products on the market, simply pop some damp towels into the freezer for a few hours and remove them when ready to help keep you cool.
Evaporation is a great cooling technique that can provide similar relief to using a fan. Use smaller towels to place over your arms, legs or forehead to help provide comfort when the temperatures become too warm.
- Invest in a fan
One of the best ways to keep cool in hot weather is to use a fan. By circulating air around your space, you can experience some relief from soaring temperatures indoors. While some products are better than others, tower fans and oscillating fans are the most popular.
While not as effective as air conditioning, they will still help cool you down when the temperature in your home becomes too hot. In the same way that evaporation provides the sense of cooling, wind or airflow has the same effect.
- Take a cool shower
Much like using a warm shower to heat you up when it’s cold, taking a cool shower can help bring down your body temperature and make you feel more comfortable. Ensure not to have the water so cold that you are uncomfortable, but it should certainly not be much warmer than lukewarm to provide relief in the heat.
Having a tepid shower encourages blood to move to the surface of the skin and promotes increased blood flow, helping your body to release excess heat. A cool shower is great right before bedtime to help you drift off.
- Keep your curtains and blinds closed
By blocking out direct sunlight, especially in west-facing rooms and windows in the afternoon, keeps indoor temperatures lower. British homes have been designed to retain heat, with the climate favouring cooler temperatures for the majority of the year.
To avoid your home getting too hot and trying to cool it afterwards, prevent as much heat as you can by keeping direct sunlight out.
- Open windows and doors to create a draft
In much the same way that using a fan to cool yourself is effective, encouraging airflow throughout your home with a draft is a great way to keep temperatures inside down. Ideally, if you can, take advantage of creating a cross breeze by opening doors and windows at opposite sides of the house.
Flushing out hot air throughout the day as the temperature begins to cool in the evenings too will make for a more comfortable temperature to sleep in, as we need rooms to be cooler to fall asleep.
- Cool down ‘hot zones’
There are areas of our body that generate or release more heat than others. By cooling these spots, you can feel relief on hot days. Use ice packs or frozen goods on key pressure points such as your wrists, back of your neck, behind your knees, ankles and temples.
Anything from ice packs and bottles of frozen water to frozen fruit and vegetables can be an effective way to cool you down in hot weather.
- Avoid using appliances like ovens
Certain appliances can cause our homes to warm faster than if we avoided them, such as the oven. By artificially increasing the temperature in your home, when it’s hot outside this can significantly affect your indoor temperature and make your home hotter than it should be.
Avoid cooking with your oven in hot weather, instead swapping hot dishes for lighter, cool meals such as salads, ice lollies and smoothies. Not only will these foods feel better to consume when the weather is hot, it will also help keep your house cooler by not adding to the heat.
It’s important to check on your loved ones and elderly neighbours when the temperatures rise. Don’t forget to always carry water with you to keep hydration levels high and use some of these tips to keep you cool in hot weather so you will be more comfortable.
There are plenty of ways to help reduce the impact of hot temperatures both at home and outdoors, so find the solutions that work best for you.
At Premier Care in Bathing, we ensure you can always make the most of your bathroom at home. Providing a range of accessible bathroom solutions including walk-in baths, walk-in showers and wet rooms, there is a range to suit everyone depending on your individual needs and preferences.