Large sections of the public are underestimating the dangers posed by even ‘UK-level’ heat, with almost three-quarters (71%) of people were not aware that heat-related deaths can start at temperatures as low as 25C[1]. That’s according to a new survey by older people’s charity Independent Age has found. That’s according to a survey by older people’s charity Independent Age, as it launches its new summer safety advice guide, Summer wise.

The Independent Age poll of 2,008 UK adults, carried out by Opinium, also revealed a lack of knowledge around skin protection, with nearly half (49%) of respondents not realising that sunscreen needs to be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, and again just before going out. This figure was even higher in people aged over 75 – at 59% – despite this age group being particularly vulnerable to skin damage from the sun[2]

More than two-fifths (43%) of respondents also stated that it takes 30 minutes of sun exposure for skin to burn – in reality, sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes[3].

Independent Age’s free Summer wise guide has been launched in order to provide accurate advice about how to enjoy the summer while staying healthy and comfortable.

Other key findings of the Independent Age poll carried out by Opinium include:

 

  • More than four in 10 people believed that UK employees were not obliged to work if the temperature at their office exceeded 30C. In fact, no specific temperature-related regulation exists in the UK.
  • Fewer than four in ten people (38%) knew that Vitamin D from the sun could not be absorbed through a window.
  • More than half of respondents (58%) did not know that it was best to keep windows closed if the temperature is cooler indoors than outdoors.
  • 58% of respondents correctly identified cotton as the best type of material to wear to stay cool. However, awareness was higher in older people (72% in those aged 55-74, and 80% in those aged 75 and above).
  • Seven in 10 people (70%) were aware that hot weather could increase the risk of food poisoning, and almost four in five (79%) knew that both UVA and UVB rays could cause skin damage.       

Last year’s summer was the joint hottest on record, with large numbers of people hospitalised due to dehydration or heatstroke[4]. The ONS consistently recorded more deaths than average during periods of hot weather – including 649 more deaths than the five-year average in the two-week period from 27 July, when temperatures soared above 30C[5]. And temperatures are likely to be just as high this year, with the Met Office’s long-range forecast for 2019 suggesting close to record warmth this year[6].

Lucy Harmer, Director of Services at Independent Age, the older people’s charity, said:

“Older people should absolutely still be able to get out and enjoy the summer, but it’s important to be aware of the increased health risks, and simple steps they can take to stay safe.

“While we might think of the UK as having a very mild summer, the reality is that summer temperatures can regularly rise high enough to cause health problems, especially for older people and those with long-term health conditions. During spells of particularly hot weather, the small gesture of checking on an older friend, relative or neighbour can make a major difference. 

“The Summer wise guide helps people to plan ahead and know how to best cope with the heat, from knowing how medication can be affected, to proper hydration and clothing.” 

Summer wise includes information about keeping living areas cool, hydration, medications, and a checklist to get your home ready. It is free to order and download from www.independentage.org/summer-wise, or can be ordered for free by calling 0800 319 6789. 

 

[1] Commons Select Committee – Environmental Audit Committee, Heatwaves: Adapting to climate change, July 2018.

[2] Cancer Research UK, Risks and causes of melanoma, December 2015.

[3] Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Sun Safety, April 2018

[4] Denis Campbell (The Guardian), Record heatwave pushes hospitals into emergency measures, August 2018

[5] ONS, Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, 2018

[6] Met Office, 2019: Close to record-breaking year, December 2018

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