Summer is here in force – and we need to stay cool, and perhaps help our older relatives.   In the Middle East where I lived for years, we had wall-to-wall air conditioning. But there were times when it failed or there was a power “brown-out”.

Here are some of the ways we stayed cool that can help us right now in the sizzling UK;

  • During the cooler periods of the day, early morning and late evening, open the doors and windows to let the cool air through. But when the heat rises, keep it out of the house by closing doors and windows and curtains. There’s a reason they have working shutters on windows in hot countries !
  • Wear light, loose clothing – preferably pure cotton. Wearing synthetic materials in the summer is like walking around in a plastic bag.
  • Put a bowl of ice cubes in front of a desk fan, or a couple of bottles filled with cold water. That will blow cool air into the room.
  • Don’t go out bare headed. It’s important to keep your head covered, especially for men who often have less protective hair covering. Sun exposure causes BCCs – basal cell carcinomas, as many men have discovered to their cost.
  • Wear sunglasses. Eyes become more sensitive to ultraviolet as we age.
  • Only go shopping when the temperature is at its coolest. Take a cardigan or extra covering to keep you warm enough in the stores’ air-conditioning.
  • if you are an older person, make sure you drink enough water! Coffee or alcohol is not advised and avoid high sugar fruit juices also.
  • Put a blouse or shirt in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and change it now and then for the one you are wearing.
  • Dab wrist, forehead, back of neck with a gel ice pack or a few cubes of ice wrapped in a face flannel.  You can also chill a face flannel in a bowl of cold water, wring it out and dab with that.
  • Where you can, sit with your feet up. Many older people suffer from poor circulation and this helps prevent fluid pooling around the ankles.
  • Sometimes, no matter how hard we tried in the Middle East some children (and a few adults, too) developed heat rash, small red spots often in skinfolds. It was called ‘prickly heat’ because it prickled, and we used to treat it with Prickly Heat Powder to cool it down. Last time I looked it was still available here at Tesco.

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke which is serious. In Arizona last week the temperature was nearly 90°.  (They still use old money over there.)  My son went  for a ride on his Harley-Davidson, and pulled over to fill up at a gas station.  Next thing he knew he was sitting in the garage shop, the back of his neck draped with cold cloths and being handed iced water.


Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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