Hot weather can be a big concern for the elderly. The elderly are vulnerable during this period as they may not be aware of extreme heat and they also have a reduce sense of thirst.
In addition, many elderly have medical problems. For example, those with heart disease may have difficulty in circulating their blood properly to dissipate heat. Those with kidney disease or were told to restrict fluids may not compensate with the extra lost of fluid during the hot weather by drinking more. Others may have medication that may worsen water loss such as water pills.
Therefore, here are some tips on taking care of yourself and your elderly loved ones during the hot weather.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF DURING HOT WEATHER!
Getting out of the house
- Plan your day. Avoid getting out the house unless it is necessary.
- Consider paying bills and buying your groceries over the Internet.
- If you need to go out, choose a time when the sun is not shining at its strongest (between 10 am and 2pm).
- Avoid going out during peak hours and getting caught in traffic.
- Start slowly and gradually build up your physical activities until you have acclimatize with the heat.
- Rest is important especially when you are starting to feel fatigue.
- Bring an umbrella along with you.
- If possible, carry a water bottle with some water wherever you go. Note: Some water bottles have a spraying mechanism that could help you keep cool
- Go to a library, mall or cinema for the cooling effect from the air conditioning
- Keep the fan or air condition on. Portable fans are useful so that you can move it into different areas of the house.Note: Fans may not be very effective when temperatures hit higher than 35 degrees Celsius. Try a “swamp cooling” effect by placing a bowl of water in front of the fan. Otherwise you can also put a wet piece of fabric in front of the fan and allow the air to blow through the wet material.
- Close the curtains (preferably light coloured) to prevent direct sunshine into the house.
- Place shiny material outside of the window to reflect heat.
- Stay at ground floor, as the first floor may be hotter as it’s just below the roof.
- Insulated roofs and outdoor awnings can help.
- Avoid staying in the outside kitchen for prolong period of time. Try cooking indoors if possible.
- Do gardening early morning or late evening.
- Take cool showers or splash yourself with cool water. You can also sponge yourself if you are too hot with a wet towel.
- Wear light and loosely fitted clothing. Avoid dark colours. Note: Cotton clothing keeps you cool
- Wearing a headgear like a wide brimmed hat or bandana may be helpful.
- Consider wearing less make up as it may impede sweating.
- If you have long hair, do tie it up.
- Put on sunscreen and wear sunglasses if required. Sunscreen will not cool you down but will help protect you from sunburn that will cause you to loose body fluids.
- Drink regularly even if you are not thirsty.
- Keep hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of fluids a day. Note: It can be water or any other beverage such as juices and smoothies.
- Refrain from drinking tea, coffee or sugary drinks ONLY, as these beverages may make dehydration worse.
- Eat light meals
- Choose food that does not require cooking eg. salads, sandwiches and raw food like sushi to avoid the need to use the stove.
- Encourage yourself to consume a greater amount of fruit or vegetables and soup base dishes. Jelly, smoothies, ice creams and popsicles also have a high content of fluid.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HEAT RELATED ILLNESSES?
Signs of irritation including redness, red spots, blisters due to excessive sweating
Headaches, feeling sick, faint and fatigue
Lack of coordination, feeling weak and dizzy.
Symptoms may include having cold and clammy skin, profuse sweating and feeling nauseated
HEAT STROKE (POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING)
Red, hot and dry skin
Confusion with bizzare behavior
Feeling faint with a rapid pulse
Breathing may be shallow and fast
Seizures and coma are possible.
- Bring them to a cool place
- Cool the person down with methods mentioned above
- Encourage oral fluids
PLEASE SEEK MEDICAL HELP IF YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THE HEAT RELATED ILLNESS
ALWAYS CHECK ON YOUR ELDERLY LOVED ONES DURING THE HOT WEATHER!!
DR. ELIZABETH CHONG is a specialist in Internal Medicine and a Geriatrician. Her interests are orthogeriatrics and community geriatrics.