Small things you can do to help vulnerable people in a heatwave

Be a good pal

11th July 2018

For most people, the thought of hot weather is the only thing they look forward to during the painfully long winter months, but once it arrives, complaints about the heat start pouring in. 

Heat contributes to around 2,000 premature deaths each year, according to a parliamentary report, and the hottest day of the year often sees spikes in preventable deaths.

The majority of us may experience sunburn at most, however there are groups of people who are drastically affected by heatwaves and there are a few small things you can do to make their lives easier.

The elderly

Older people’s bodies are often unable to adjust to drastic rises in temperature, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heat strokes.

Just like in cold temperatures, elderly people might be reluctant to leave the house during heatwaves. Check on elderly neighbours and relatives to make sure they have everything they need, including food and medication, and are not suffering too much in the heat.

Age UK has highlighted some of the ways that carers for the elderly can ensure they are staying safe both inside the house and outside.

It suggests elderly people should wear light and loosely fitted clothing made from cotton to allow air in and keep curtains and blinds closed to prevent sunlight from heating up rooms. It also mentions placing a piece of cloth soaked in cold water on to the wrists, inner elbows and back of the neck to help cool down.

Babies and small children

Babies and small children are at risk of becoming ill due to sunburn, heat exhaustion and dehydration during heatwaves, according to NHS Direct. Just like the elderly, young children also have trouble adjusting to sudden changes in temperature.

Keep babies under six month out of direct sunlight

Some of the ways this can be prevented, as explained by the NHS, is to keep babies under six month out of direct sunlight, and to use a parasol on pushchairs for slightly older babies. Ensure your child is drinking enough water throughout the day (younger babies should have cooled boiled water), and having cool baths before bed or playing in paddling pools can also help them stay cool.

Homeless people


Homeless people are at particular risk of severe heat stroke because they are often unable to escape the heat. Some people even develop infected blisters on their skin due to the amount of sun exposure they are subjected to. To make matters worse, according to the BBC, homeless people have been told that they’re not allowed to enter buildings to escape the sun.

More than 300,000 people in the UK are homeless or living in inadequate housing, according to non-profit Global Citizen. It suggests some ways to help people sleeping on the street during a heatwave, some of which include buying them sun cream and water, donating old umbrellas to be used as sun shades and calling a rough sleepers charity to help them if they look ill or in pain.

Other tips for heatwaves

As well as looking out for others, make sure that you are taking safety precautions from the heat too. The NHS suggests some general ways to stay safe during heatwaves:

Before you can help anyone else, it’s essential to know which precautions you should take to stay safe, while enjoying the rare sunny British weather.

11th July 2018