As the Met Office extends an Amber Heat warning from Sunday 17 into Tuesday 19 July, highlighting the risks even to people in good health, Age NI renews calls for us all to look out for older friends, family and neighbours, especially those who are more vulnerable for any reason, such as those with heart conditions or breathing difficulties.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Unusually hot conditions are forecast for much of England and Northern Ireland from Sunday into next Tuesday, so our message at Age UK is please take care if you are an older person, and to the rest of us please look out for older neighbours, family members and friends who could find this period quite distressing and even threatening to their health.

“The kind of heat which is predicted is far more intense than we’re used to here, and though many of us may have enjoyed similar conditions abroad the fact is our homes are rarely designed to cope with it. Also, although the temperatures are scheduled to fall a little in the two or three days leading up to this surge they will still stay quite high. The end result is that where we live will already be warm, even before the extra heat arrives on Sunday to make it even hotter.

“The evidence is crystal clear that as we age our bodies find it harder to manage extremes of heat, and of cold. Any older person who is already coping with significant health issues, especially if they impact their heart or their lungs, is going to find the coming heatwave a challenge. We urge them to take some simple precautions, and for others around them to keep a gentle eye, and offer practical help where relevant too.

“Our top tips set out the things older people can do to get through a heatwave as comfortably and safely as possible and we thank the media for helping us to spread their important messages.

“Older people can be at risk of dehydration and overheating when the temperature is high, especially if they live somewhere that is hard to keep cool. Some medications can increase the severity of heat stroke too. It’s a good idea to let people know if you have any concerns about your health during these unusually hot days, especially if you live alone, have a long-term illness, mobility problems or are living in a top floor flat and have no obvious way of keeping cool.

“We can all help keep older people safe during the severe heat by checking in on older relatives, friends and neighbours to see if they need anything – you could for example, encourage them to stay hydrated with the gift of an ice cream, ask if they would like help getting shopping or picking up any medication, or you may even have an extra fan you could lend.

“The symptoms of heat exhaustion can be similar to Covid-19 and include a high temperature, excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin and headaches. Confusion, dizziness and nausea can also be signs of a heat related illness. If you experience any of these symptoms go somewhere cool, have a cold drink and cool down your skin with water, fans or cold packs. If your symptoms don’t improve then call 111 for advice or 999 if there is cause for serious concern.

“For more information people can call Age NI’s free advice line on 0808 808 7575 or visit our website”