Longer and more intense heat waves are becoming an increasing problem in Baden-Württemberg. On June 5, the Climate Change and Health Action Alliance in Baden-Württemberg is therefore holding a digital conference entitled “Dealing with Heat – Focus on Elderly People Living Alone”.

Climate change is a growing threat to our health. It causes longer and more intense heat waves, which are becoming an increasing problem in Baden-Württemberg. This year, the nationwide heat action day will take place again on June 5th with the aim of anchoring heat protection in all areas of life, but also in federal and state laws. To mark this occasion, the Climate Change and Health Action Alliance in Baden-Württemberg is organizing a digital conference “Dealing with heat – focus on older people living alone” and is launching an awareness-raising campaign on heat protection. The Climate Change and Health Action Alliance is made up of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Health, the German Weather Service, the State Medical Association and the State Chamber of Pharmacists as a new member.

For some people, heat is particularly dangerous

Heat affects everyone, but can be particularly dangerous for the elderly, those in need of care or those with pre-existing illnesses, pregnant women, infants and children, as well as for people with disabilities, the homeless and people who work outdoors. In the worst case, heat can lead to death. According to estimates by the State Statistical Office, an average of around 1,500 deaths per year in Baden-Württemberg are caused by heat.

Health Minister Manne Lucha said on Monday (June 3) in Stuttgart: “Heat protection is becoming increasingly important in Baden-Württemberg. We must therefore act and raise awareness among people in the state – especially those at risk and those involved in their environment. The conference and the heat protection campaign are making an important contribution to this. In doing so, we are sending a signal that we need committed people at all levels who work together across sectors. Because heat protection for health is a joint task. With the State Chamber of Pharmacists, we have been able to gain another important partner for the Climate Change and Health Action Alliance. Specialists in pharmacies, as well as employees in doctor’s offices and health authorities, are important multipliers in reaching the risk group of older people.”

Temperature-appropriate handling of medicines

The President of the State Chamber of Pharmacists (LAK), Dr. Martin Braun, also points out that local pharmacies play a crucial role in heat protection: “The pharmaceutical advisory skills of pharmacists also include points on the stress caused by heat and sunlight, which is particularly important for older people. With their specialist knowledge, pharmacists provide specific information on temperature-appropriate storage and the safe use of medicines, even at high temperatures. Some medicines, for example, affect the body’s fluid balance or can lead to intolerance reactions when combined with sunlight.” Dr. Björn Schittenhelm, board member and coordinator for prevention, environment and consumer protection at the LAK, adds: “Local pharmacies always have the needs of their patients in mind. By offering services such as courier services, they save vulnerable groups in particular from unnecessary journeys in the heat and at the same time ensure a low-threshold and competent supply of medicines.”

Body’s own cooling system overloaded

The President of the State Medical Association, Dr. Wolfgang Miller, warned: “In hot weather, the body’s own cooling system can become overloaded – especially in older people. In the simplest case, regulatory disorders and circulatory problems occur. But many heart attacks and strokes are also caused by heat waves, especially in people with pre-existing conditions and especially at the beginning of summer.” The Climate Protection Officer of the State Medical Association, Dr. Robin Maitra, added: “We are concerned that mortality is also increasing due to heat: In the case of chronic diseases of the lower respiratory tract, heat waves will lead to a doubling to five-fold increase in mortality by the end of the century. In the case of coronary heart disease, the number of deaths in the same time frame will be between three and nine times higher than it is now. As doctors, we are already seeing a spread of many diseases that have not previously occurred in our country, and existing diseases can also be exacerbated by heat and climate change.”

Heat waves will continue to increase in intensity in the future

Dr. Stefan Muthers from the German Weather Service explained: “The summers of recent years have shown that climate change is already taking place. However, the heat waves of recent summers were only a foretaste of what is still to come as a result of climate change. According to the IPCC and scientific studies, heat waves will continue to increase in intensity in the future, their duration will increase and their frequency will increase. Since 2005, the German Weather Service has used its heat warning system for human health to inform the population, health care providers and authorities when the next heat wave is imminent. The latest heat warnings can be found in the weather warning app and at www.hitzewarnungen.de.”

In focus: Elderly people living alone

The digital conference on the nationwide heat action day is aimed specifically at those who deal with the risk group of elderly people living alone. The focus of the event is on how elderly people living alone can be supported during periods of heat. The heat action day also marks the start of a heat protection campaign to raise awareness among the general public. Postcards in The Länd design are intended to draw the population’s attention to the issue with eye-catching slogans such as “STÄY COOL” and “BEATHEAT”. On the back of the card, interested parties will find tips on how to stay as fit and healthy as possible even on hot days. The postcards will be distributed to the population via health authorities, doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

On the occasion of Heat Action Day, the Ministry of Health is conducting a nationwide survey for the first time on the development and implementation status of heat protection measures in all municipalities. The aim is to gain a comprehensive overview of the activities already in place in the state and to make them visible. In addition, success factors and possible hurdles for municipalities in the area of ​​heat protection are to be identified. These should enable needs-based support for risk groups at the state and district level.

Background information

Climate Change and Health Action Alliance
The Climate Change and Health Action Alliance was founded in 2023 with the Ministry of Health, the German Weather Service and the State Medical Association. The State Chamber of Pharmacists joined as a further member in 2024. The aim of the alliance is to expand and consolidate professional cooperation at the state level and to jointly develop solutions to the health impacts of climate change.

Older people as a risk group
Older people are at increased risk of heat-related illnesses, partly due to a reduced sense of thirst. Certain pre-existing conditions, the need for care and social isolation increase the risk. The majority of older people live in their own homes, which is why the conference is specifically aimed at those who come or could come into contact with older people living alone.

Recommendations for protection against the negative effects of heat:

  • During the midday heat, stay indoors or in the shade if possible and try to avoid physical exertion. Outdoor activities should be limited to the cooler morning and evening hours.
  • Make sure you drink enough fluids. Water, mineral water, juice spritzers, soups and water-rich fruits are all suitable. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Eat several small, light meals.
  • Use the cooling of the night and the early morning hours to ventilate rooms. Darken rooms during the day and use external blinds or shutters if possible.
  • Wear light, non-constricting cotton clothing in light colors. A hat and sunscreen also help when exposed to sunlight.
  • Please also pay particular attention to relatives and fellow citizens who are unable to implement these recommendations independently.
  • Find out about air-conditioned spaces that are open to the public in your area, such as libraries.

The State Health Office provides extensive information on the topic on its website.

For the digital conference Can you register online.