If the great British summer excels itself, follow our tips for keeping cool and staying safe in the sun, plus why humanist funerals are on the rise and local care home opens its doors
Most of us look forward to the warmer weather and, now you’re retired there is plenty of time and lots of opportunities for getting out in the sun. But it’s important to be prepared for the hot weather as high temperatures and humidity can present a risk to health, and older people can be particularly susceptible to heat-related illness.
We are never sure what the unpredictable British weather may throw at us but here are a few helpful tips on how to protect yourself and keep cool when things hot up.
Keep out of the heat
• Don’t spend long periods sitting or working outside during the hottest time of day – late morning to mid-afternoon.
• If you do go out, wear a hat and stay in the shade as much as possible, and remember to apply and reapply sun cream regularly.
• If you’re travelling by car or public transport always take a bottle of water.
• Avoid strenuous activity, and limit activities like housework and gardening to the early morning or evening when it’s cooler.
• When inside, try to stay in the coolest parts of your home. Keep curtains and blinds closed in the rooms that catch the sun.
• Wear loose, lightweight, light-coloured, cotton clothing. When it comes to footwear, sandals that fasten with Velcro are a good idea if your feet swell up in the heat. Avoid flip-flops as these can be hard to walk in.
• Keep hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids – 6-8 glasses of water or fruit juice a day – even if you aren’t thirsty. Water is best – try to limit drinks with caffeine in them, such as tea, coffee or cola – and always keep a bottle handy when you’re outdoors. Avoid alcohol as it can make dehydration worse.
• Eat normally – even if you aren’t hungry as you need a normal diet to replace salt losses from sweating. In addition, try to have more cold foods, particularly salads and fruit, as they contain a lot of water.
• Be careful when eating, especially outside. Hot weather causes bacteria to multiply quickly and increases our risk of food poisoning. When shopping, bring chilled food home quickly and put it straight in the fridge.
Sunny side up
Although it’s important to protect your skin, some direct exposure to the sun is essential for the production of vitamin D, which helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Getting the balance right for enough sun exposure to trigger vitamin D production without causing skin damage and increasing your risk of skin cancer is important.
• Don’t let your skin burn, but try to go outside once or twice every day without sunscreen for short periods from March to October.
• If you are going outside for some time, use sun cream of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 with four or five stars. Apply it generously and top up at least every two hours or straight after you’ve been in water.
• You also need to protect your eyes from the sun. Wear sunglasses that have a CE mark, UV400 label or a statement that they offer 100% UV (ultraviolet) protection.
• If you have moles or brown patches on your skin, they usually remain harmless. But if they bleed or change size, shape or colour, consult your GP.
What are some health problems caused by hot weather?
Be aware of the symptoms of common health problems experienced in summer so you can get medical help if you feel unwell.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are more serious side effects of too much sun. In fact, heatstroke is a life-threatening condition. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, intense thirst, heavy sweating and a fast pulse, while heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated – it can also develop suddenly and without warning.
The symptoms of heatstroke include confusion, disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness.
• For more information, visit www.nhs.uk/livewell/summerhealth/pages/heatwave.aspx or www.ageuk.org.uk