Hot weather advice for vulnerable adults

Hot weather can affect everyone. During periods of hot weather, there is a risk of developing heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and other heat-related illnesses including respiratory and heart problems. It's important that you check in on any vulnerable family, friends, or neighbours to make sure they are coping in the heat, as they may not be able to keep themselves cool and hydrated.

Vulnerable adults include:

  • those aged 65 years or older
  • anybody who lives alone, especially people who may be unable to care for themselves
  • those who have a medical condition such as heart, kidney or respiratory conditions, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, or severe mental illness
  • somebody who may be taking medication that could affect heart or kidney function, their cognition, or ability to sweat
  • anyone who has dementia or people who have problems with their mobility
  • somebody who could become overexposed to heat, for example, living in a top floor flat, being homeless, or outdoor occupations and activities

Heat-related illnesses

There is a range of heat-related illnesses from heat cramps, through heat exhaustion, to heatstroke. These illnesses can be avoided by taking some simple steps. Make sure to:

  • keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
  • if you must go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen, and wear a hat and light scarf
  • avoid extreme physical exertion
  • wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes
  • cool yourself down
  • have plenty of drinks – aim for 6-8 glasses of water a day if you can
  • eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high-water content
  • take a cool shower, bath, or body wash if you are able
  • sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck

You can find out more about how to keep cool in hot weather in our Be Safe This Summer guide.

Heat cramps

Symptoms of heat cramps include:

  • muscle spasms
  • a feeling of intense thirst
  • high heart rate

Heat exhaustion

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • a rising body temperature
  • appearing flushed and sweaty and complaining of feeling hot
  • mild confusion, feeling irritable, and anxiety
  • having a headache
  • feeling thirsty
  • fainting
  • feeling or being sick


Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If someone has heatstroke, they need to go to hospital.

Symptoms include:

  • rapid breathing (also known as hyperventilation)
  • skin feeling cold and dry to the touch
  • not being able to sweat

If you suspect someone has heatstroke, call 999.

While waiting for the ambulance:

  • take the person’s temperature
  • if possible, move them somewhere cooler
  • cool them down as quickly as possible by spraying their skin with cool water
  • place cold packs on neck, armpits, and groin
  • encourage them to drink cool fluids if they are conscious
  • do not give them aspirin or paracetamol


Most medicines should be kept below 25°C, so they should be stored somewhere cool, dry, out of direct sunlight and away from windowsills.

Medicines should only be stored in the fridge if the instructions tell you to. You can find out more on the NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service website.

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