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Tuesday, 12 September 2017 10:00

Avoiding elderly heatstroke & exhaustion

As South Africa transitions into spring and summer, the warm weather awaits and poses a great risk for the elderly.

Seniors are naturally more prone to the threat of heat stroke because as you age, you become less aware of changes in your body temperature – at times hardly noticing if you are severely cold or too hot. To add to this, many seniors suffer from underlying health conditions that make them less able to adequately adapt to the heat or cold around them.

Finally, many elderly patients take a number of different medications which contribute to dehydration – one of the primary symptoms of heat stroke and exhaustion.

However, with a little bit of awareness and vigilance by carers and loved ones, heat stroke and the resulting exhaustion can be avoided in the upcoming summer months with these simple steps:

  • Staying hydrated

This includes drinking plenty of liquids – such as water and juice, but avoiding highly caffeinated, sugary or alcoholic drinks – which can only contribute to dehydration.

  • Dressing appropriately

Many seniors tend to fall back on old favourite items of clothing which may not be weather appropriate. Ensure that your loved one or patient avoids wearing overly tight fitting, dark coloured clothing, instead opting for lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing in extremely hot weather.

  • Avoid being outdoors during midday hours

This is generally where the day is at its warmest – try and avoid running errands or being outdoors for extended periods of time from 12 – 3pm. The best time during very warm days to run errands and be outdoors is generally before 11am and after 4pm.

  • Discourage excessive exercise

Try and explain that although you understand they are aching to get some exercise, it is always best to do so in the earlier hours of the day or towards the afternoon. Excessive exercise should be altogether avoided on particularly hot days.

  • Seek air-conditioned environments

If it is a necessity to travel or be outdoors during the warmest hours of the day, try and seek out air-conditioned environments which may help to make things more comfortable. Alternatively, consider installing an air-conditioner in their room to help with regulating their body temperature during the hottest months of the year.

Know the symptoms of heat stroke and exhaustion

These include: dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, problems with breathing and fainting.

It’s important to stay on-top of your loved one or patient’s health care at all times, most especially in the warmer months of the year when many seniors are unaware of the drastic increase in temperatures. By doing so, unnecessary health issues and resultant doctor’s bills can be avoided!

 

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