Now that summer is here and we are beginning to enjoy some warm weather, we need to be aware of the adverse effects of really hot weather. The ones we hear about (for good reason) are heat stress and heatstroke.
What is heat stress?
Extreme heat can affect anybody, but elderly and the very young are very susceptible to heat stress. This occurs when the body gets too hot and then is unable to cool itself enough to maintain a normal temperature. Even sweating which is the usual way the body cools itself is not enough in extreme conditions and the body temperature just keeps rising.
Effects can be mild in the form of cramps or heat rash to serious effects of heatstroke which can be fatal. Some common symptoms of heat stress in an elderly person are light-headedness and dizziness, confusion, headache, feeling faint, fewer toilet visits and concentrated urine.
Heatstroke is due to high body temperature can cause severe confusion, organ shutdown, seizures and unconsciousness. This is a medical emergency and kills more people every year than natural disasters.
What to do on a hot day or how to stay cool
Some of the tips are just common sense, but we need to plan. These include:
Wear loose, cool clothes,
Drink more water than usual and non-alcoholic cool drinks,
Have small meals more often to keep up your energy levels,
Stay indoors in the cool with air conditioning or a fan,
Avoid exercise in the outdoors, in confined poorly ventilated areas,
Do all your jobs in the cool of the morning or evening,
Check on your friends and family to make sure they are drinking water, staying cool and not exercising,
Remember that your pets will need extra fluid also.
A damp face washer around your neck or on your forehead or putting your feet in cool water will help keep the temperature down also. Planning ahead for the hot days is a good idea also, to avoid too many activities in the outdoors. This could even include driving to the shops.
Remember that heat stress is serious and heatstroke is often fatal in susceptible individuals. It can be prevented by following the simple tips and looking after yourself and friends and neighbours. Seeking medical advice or calling the emergency services if you are unsure is a really good idea.
For more information go to the Better Health Channel: betterhealth.vic.gov.au
Learn more about heat stress in Episode 9 of The Better Ageing Podcast:
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