Despite the fact that we live in Northern Ontario we still have to contend with very warm summer periods. Heat stress, heat exhaustion and dehydration occur on a regular basis but can be avoided. Seniors are at a heightened risk for heat related illnesses because their bodies do not effectively cool down and it takes longer for them to recover if they get overheated.
Heat, sun, and humidity are unavoidable and precautions need to be taken seriously to avoid serious illness. In homes without air conditioning, it is important to increase the ventilation and circulation of air. Fans are inexpensive and can be effective at improving air circulation. Keeping curtains closed during the hottest part of the day may keep some homes cooler. Opening windows to allow the flow of air can be beneficial. Be sure not to jeopardize their safety and security by checking to see that latches are in place to prevent falls or security breaches if opened from the outside.
Encourage your loved one to spend time in public air conditioned spaces such as a library or shopping centre in times of extreme heat. Take your loved one out to a cool restaurant for dinner or invite them to your home if it is air conditioned and enjoy a cool visit together.
Having plenty of fluids on hand to combat dehydration is important. A jug of water in the fridge with a few slices of lemon added makes a quick refreshing and healthy drink. Having drinks on hand which contain electrolytes, such as Gatorade can be effective in replacing potassium and sodium which are lost during perspiration. Some medications can increase a senior’s risk to heat related illnesses. Medications such as diuretics or antibiotics can block the body’s natural ability to fight the effects of overheating. Be sure to address any concerns you have about medications and speak to your physician and pharmacist.
Choosing proper clothing in warm weather can be important factor in avoiding heat stress. Cottons that are loose fitting and lightweight would be suitable for hot summer weather. Wearing a hat is always important when in the sun to avoid sunburn and overheating. An umbrella works wonders when trying to provide yourself with shade in hot weather.
Extreme thirst, pale, cold, clammy skin, light headedness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, and excessive sweating are signs of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion can quickly turn into very serious heat stoke if care is not taken immediately. Some signs of heat stroke include confusion, hot, dry skin, fast pulse, and a temperature of 104 degrees or higher. Someone exhibiting signs of heat stroke is having a medical emergency and you should call 911 or your local emergency medical team.
If you would like more information about how you can ensure your loved one is protected, contact Blue Sky Personal Support Workers.