Tips for keeping the elderly safe during extreme heat
Here in Britain, we are simply not used to high temperatures we sometimes experience during the summer – and while heatwaves are enjoyable for some, for the elderly they can be especially dangerous – often because we are not prepared.
And after staying at home for much of the last 12 months, it is understandable many of us are keen to get out and see our friends and family and go on days out. But we must keep in mind that excessive heat can be dangerous, particularly for the elderly. We’ve put together some tips to help to ensure you can make the most of the summer whilst keeping your loved ones safe.
The temperature inside or outside does not have to reach 38°C to put our loved ones at risk for a heat-related illness. And if the temperature is 30°C + during the day for two days in a row, the effects on our health can really start to become a problem.
It is always worth being prepared, familiarising yourself with the warning signs, and acting quickly if you suspect that you or your elderly relative or friend is suffering from the heat. Overheating is one of the most common risks for the elderly as it can worsen existing problems such as heart and respiratory problems.
Dehydration and heat exhaustion are serious side effects – warnings that your body can no longer keep itself cool. But what signs should you look for?
- Headache, confusion, dizziness, or nausea could be a sign of a heat-related illness.
- You might sweat a lot and while your body temperature may stay normal, your skin may feel cold and clammy.
- Some people with heat exhaustion have a rapid pulse as the heart becomes more stressed.
To keep heat-related illnesses from becoming dangerous heat stroke, it’s important to get relief from the heat quickly. You can do this by:
- Drinking plenty of liquids, especially water. Stay away from drinks containing alcohol or caffeine. Aim to drink six – eight glasses of liquid a day, and more if it’s very hot.
- Eat a balanced diet to help your body replace any salt you lose by sweating.
- Keeping your home as cool as possible. Keep your shades, blinds, or curtains closed during the hottest part of the day. Open your windows at night and limit your use of the oven.
- Don’t stand outside in the heat waiting for a bus.
- Dress for the weather, in natural fabrics, such as cotton and linen. Wear a hat or use an umbrella.
- Don’t try to exercise or do a lot of activities outdoors when it’s hot.
- Avoid crowded places when it’s hot outside. Plan trips during non-rush-hour times.
- Shower, bathe, or sponge off with cool water. Try using ice cubes wrapped in a towel or ice pack to cool your body down.
- Lie down and rest in a cool place.
- Call your doctor or carer if you can’t cool down quickly.
We all enjoy the sunny weather, but too much heat is not safe for anyone and heat and humidity can impact negatively on the health of the elderly, so make sure you’re prepared and heed these precautions.
If you have a relative or friends that is elderly, check-in with them. If the person lives alone, check-in on a daily basis or ask a neighbour to check they are ok. Heat exhaustion can be extremely dangerous. If in doubt always call 111 and get advice from a health professional.
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