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Keeping the Elderly Cool in the Summer

 

With the scorching summer temperatures upon us, it’s vital that the elderly, in particular, are protected against heat-related illness and kept cool and comfortable. Seniors are especially prone to critical health complications from hot weather, including heat exhaustion, heatstroke, sunburns and dehydration.

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Why Seniors Are More Susceptible to Heat Illness

As we get older, our bodies are not as efficient at regulating temperature. Seniors who are over 65 don’t sweat as much as younger adults; sweating is one of the body’s most vital heat-regulation methods. Seniors also store fat in a different way, which further complicates heat-regulation in the body.

This is potentially dangerous because as the temperature rises, so does your internal body temperature. That’s particularly the case when you’re receiving direct sun exposure. Seniors experience heat stroke far more often than younger individuals during the summer months.

Two Common Heat-Related Illnesses to Be Aware of

Heat Exhaustion

This condition is a warning that your body is unable to keep itself cool. The loss of normal fluids and salts in the body produce heat exhaustion. It results from being exposed to heat, either indoors or outdoors. Here are some of the common symptoms of heat exhaustion to pay attention to:

  • Cool, clammy skin
  • A body temperature of up to 103 degrees
  • A weak, rapid pulse
  • Shallow and quiet breathing
  • Muscles that may be tight or contracted

To treat heat exhaustion, ensure that the individual quietly rests in a cool place. Make sure that they increase their intake of cool, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated fluids. If you believe a senior friend or family member is suffering from heat exhaustion, consult a physician immediately.

Heatstroke

A potentially fatal illness, this condition results from direct exposure to high temperatures or the sun. Heatstroke commonly impacts those who are tired or dealing with a debilitating condition. Symptoms include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Spots before the eyes
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Bright red dry skin
  • A rapid, strong pulse
  • Not sweating
  • A body temperature exceeding 103 degrees

As heatstroke is a life-threating condition, be sure to call your countries emergency number immediately if you feel your loved one is suffering from this condition.

Video: Dehydration, Heat Illness & The Elderly

8 Stay-Cool Tips to Share With Your Elderly Loved Ones

1. Refresh yourself. When it’s hot outside, one of the best ways to stay comfortable is by taking a cool bath or shower or even placing a damp washcloth on your face or back of your neck to cool down.

2. Take a rest. While vigorous physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, any strenuous activity should be kept to a minimum during hot weather. Activities such as housework and gardening should be done in the early morning, or evening, when the temperatures dip.infographic 26 sep-01 (2) (1)

3. Consume cool foods and drinks. Eating nutritious and cool foods such as watermelon and salads, and drinking plenty of water are essential to provide hydration. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s still critical to drink plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine such as coffee and tea, as caffeine works as a diuretic, depleting our bodies of vital liquids. Refraining from drinking alcohol is also a good idea as it can be dehydrating. You also can hydrate and get good nutrients with a fruit smoothie or sports drink containing electrolytes.

4. Wear looser clothing. As dark clothing absorbs the heat, opt to wear light-coloured and loose clothing, ideally from breathable cotton. It’s also critical to avoid wearing anything that fits too tightly.

5. Stay out of the sun during peak hours. Try to avoid being out in the sun during peak hours. Aim to fit in your appointments or outings before 11am and after 3pm. If you must be out during the hottest hours of the day, be sure to wear a wide brim hat and sunglasses and try to stay in the shade as much as possible. Also, wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn and skin cancer. Remember to reapply it every few hours, and immediately if you go swimming.

6. Block out the heat. One of the best ways to keep the house cool is by keeping curtains or blinds closed, so the sun doesn’t shine into the house, heating it up. You also should avoid using the oven as it not only will heat up your kitchen but also the home.

7. Keep the Air Flowing. If you don’t have air conditioning, turn on fans and open up the windows in your home (if safe to do so) to allow cool air to circulate and help you cool off with a breeze from the outdoors.

8. Air Conditioning Is Your Friend. If your home is air-conditioned, stay put. If you don’t have air conditioning or a fan, of if your power goes out, head to your local senior centre, shopping mall, movie theatre, the home of a friend or family member, or another cool place.

Pay Attention to Weather Forecasts

Turn on the TV or radio to check out the forecast for the week ahead. If the temperature or humidity is rising or an air pollution alert is in effect, your risk for a heat-related illness will increase. Play it safe by checking the weather report before going outside.

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