Cumbria County Council is working hard to protect older and vulnerable people from the effects of the warm weather.
Although the Met Office says London and the South East are likely to experience the highest temperatures in the next few days, the county council's adult social care directorate is monitoring the situation in Cumbria closely and working hard to keep older and vulnerable people safe from the effects of high temperatures.
Staff at Cumbria Care's residential homes and social care workers visiting people's homes have been issued with advice on how people can stay cool. Key actions include:
- Ensuring blinds and curtains are drawn where appropriate to keep direct sunlight out of warm rooms (if it's cooler inside than out then it's best to shut and shade windows; if it's hotter inside than out, then windows should be opened for ventilation and try to get air flowing around the home).
- Keeping people in the coolest parts of homes and avoiding going outside between 11am - 3pm.
- Monitoring fluid intake and providing regular cold drinks - avoiding caffeine and alcohol where appropriate.
- Encouraging people to wear light, loose cotton clothes to absorb sweat and prevent skin irritation.
- Encouraging people to eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content.
- Arranging cool showers or baths and sponging people with cool water.
- Looking out for any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, muscle weakness or cramps, stomach cramps, tiredness, loss of appetite, weak pulse and a high temperature.
- Monitoring temperatures inside care homes.
The effects of prolonged high temperatures on older people can be fatal, with older women being more vulnerable to the effects of heat than older men. Every one degree rise in temperature during a heatwave claims an average of 75 extra lives per week across the country. In one hot nine-day period in south-east England in August 2003, there were nearly 2,000 extra deaths. The biggest increase in risk of death was among those in care homes.
The first few days of a heatwave are the most dangerous as people's bodies need to adapt to the change in temperature.
The main causes of illness and death during a heatwave are respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. In order to keep cool, large quantities of extra blood are circulated to the skin. This causes strain on the heart, which for elderly people and those with chronic health problems can be enough to cause heart failure.
Richard Parry, head of adults and culture at Cumbria County Council, said:
"Summer's an enjoyable time, but we need to be aware of the risks that the hot weather can bring. Our staff are making sure older people in our care are as cool and safe as possible, but everyone should be aware of the potential risks. Anyone with elderly friends and neighbours can also keep an eye out for them, and help them to stay cool with some of the recommended actions. The problems associated with heatstroke can escalate quickly so often swift and decisive action is required. If in doubt, advice should be sought through services such as NHS Direct."
Media enquiries to Gareth Cosslett, News Manager on 01228 226332