Summertime can be very enjoyable with sunny, warm long days however excessive heat can lead to conditions such as heat stress and heat stroke of which people over the age of 65 years are more susceptible
As we age our body’s mechanisms to cope with heat alters. Skin becomes thinner with age and we gradually lose the ability to perspire and regulate our body temperature. Older people therefore tend to overdress as they don’t feel heat the same way.
Factors that may increase the risk of dehydration, heat stress and heat stroke in elderly people include:
- Living alone – When living alone there is no one to assist if the person ignores the signs of dehydration
- Self care problems – Reduced mobility may make it difficult for elderly person to adequately care for them selves in hot weather e.g. access water, prepare the house etc.
- Chronic medical conditions – Heart, lung and kidney disease may increase risk of dehydration and heat stress.
- Medications –Some medications can interfere with the ability to manage hot weather e.g. antipsychotic drugs commonly given to Alzheimer’s patient, anticholinergic drugs, sedative, beta blockers, diuretics, antihistamines and some antidepressants
- Caffeine and alcohol intake
Below are the signs and symptoms that you and your loved ones should be aware of regarding heat related conditions
Symptoms of heat exhaustion: Warning body is getting too hoot
- Thirst, giddiness, weakness, lack of coordination
- Profuse sweating
- Pulse normal or slightly raised
Symptoms of heat stroke: Life threatening – medical emergency
- Very high body temperature
- Dry swollen tongue
- Shallow, rapid breathing
- Red, hot and dry skin – lack of sweating
- Rapid pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Confusion or strange behaviour
- Loss of consciousness
Heat Stroke is a medical emergency – Please call an ambulance 000 if someone develops heat stroke.
To alleviate symptoms while waiting for help, lie the person down in a cool place, elevate the feet, apply cool and wet cloths or water to skin (especially head, groin and armpits), fan with hand or electric fan, if possible give small sips of cool water.
Tips for coping with the heat
There are some simple measures that you and your loved ones can take to reduce your risk of heat related illness
- Stay cool – draw blinds/curtains, turn on air conditioning, use wet towels or cool shower and sit in front of electric fan
- Stay indoors and avoid strenuous activity including exercise, gardening and house work
- Wear lightweight clothing
- Drink cool water regularly throughout the day (not just when you feel thirsty)
- Eat little often rather than large meals. Try to eat cold meals which contain water e.g. salad and fruit
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
- Monitor the colour of your urine – dark yellow or brown colour suggests dehydration
We hope this helps you to take care of your self, your family, neighbours and your community in the hot summer weather.