It’s important to know the health risks associated with heat and sun
by The Standard | Podcast June 4th, 2020 https://thestandardnewspaper.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Heat-and-Sun-Health-June-4th-2020.mp3
The elderly population are at a much greater risk for heat-related illness and health crises than any other group. It doesn’t take long before dehydration and heat exhaustion to have a serious impact on our loved ones. Summer heat can be dangerous for everyone, but seniors are vulnerable to dehydration, which can lead to heatstroke. Dehydration and heatstroke can be life-threatening if left untreated, it’s important to recognize the symptoms. Warmth can be welcoming, especially when you have aches and pains in your joints, but you need to protect yourself against the dangerous effects of hot weather. Seniors lose their ability to conserve water, as their skin becomes a less effective barrier against evaporation, meaning that they can’t absorb as much water. It is essential that we watch for signs of dehydration, which can include headaches, dizziness, and lethargy, by ensuring your loved ones are drinking enough on hot days. Dehydration can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urination due to infections and diseases, such as diabetes. It can also include symptoms of increased thirst, weakness, sluggishness, fainting and palpitations. Rest in a cool place and an air conditioner can literally be a lifesaver. It’s important to dress for the weather, including a wide-brimmed hat, wear light colours and loose-fitting clothing. Sunscreens and proper clothing are essential for helping loved ones stay safe. It’s important to adjust layers if participating in inside or outside activities. Try to plan activities that require going outside during non-peak hours when it might be a little cooler. Use sunscreen lotions and reapply frequently. Sunglasses will also prevent eye injuries, as seniors react to light changing activities at a slower rate, proper UV protectant and sunglasses are essential. Be vigilant and also protect against bugs and insect bites. How to recognize heat exhaustion or heat stroke. While our core body temperature will rise and our natural moisture content drops, our bodies then begin to shut down, bit by bit. Certain medications, heavy clothing, loss of body fluids from excessive sweating, (where sweating does not allow the body to cool) limited air movement, physical exertion, plus poor physical condition, can all play a role. Symptoms include weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, visual disturbances, intense thirst, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, vomiting including headaches and loss of consciousness. Emergency assistance and First Aid are necessary as this could lead to heatstroke. Move to a cool place or shaded area, elevate legs, loosen and remove excess clothing. Have a cool shower, not cold, or sponge bath if possible and rest. Heatstroke is more serious and must be treated immediately as heatstroke can cause the body’s regulatory system to fail and can be fatal. Call 911. Spending 30 minutes outside isn’t just relaxing, it’s also healthy. Remember to drink plenty of liquids, such as water or fruit juice. Walk the dog, tend to the garden, go on a picnic, tour the neighbourhood with your grandchildren, enjoy your summer but do it safely. Summer is a great time to be active, but for adults 65 or older summer weather can pose health challenges.
While you can’t always be there to provide the type of care your aging loved one needs, they can be safe while you’re away. It is very important to have someone to check in on loved ones, neighbours, and friends to enjoy summer safety and give you peace of mind.