HomeBlogHeatwave and older people: 14 recommendations to avoid risks associated with high temperatures

Heatwave and older people: 14 recommendations to avoid risks associated with high temperatures

Heat, especially associated with humidity, further increases the risk of mortality, and this is because when perspiration systems act more than the body is used to, they end up weakening the body. If this happens, we may be faced with two situations:

  • Heat exhaustion: in which there is a significant increase in sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, nausea, rapid and weak pulse associated with headache.
  • Heat stroke: in which there is already an increase in temperature, red or dry skin, lack of perspiration, and a state of confusion or unconsciousness.

Old people, a group particularly vulnerable to high temperatures

The people who accumulate the most risk of death or illness are the elderly, children, people with Alzheimer's or other mental health disorders, immobilised patients, those with respiratory or heart disorders, as well as people with feverish episodes or those who are overweight.

A revealing fact: visits by elderly people to the emergency department during the summer season increase by 20-25%. But why is this increase? Why are elderly people so susceptible to high temperatures? Heat first causes a loss of liquids, and over the years the body becomes less able to regulate this type of situation. We give a worse response to heat, which results in a reduction of total body water and less feeling of thirst.

In view of this, since older people are the main users of the health system, we should be able to redirect and adapt services to their needs.

Tips to avoid getting a scare

  1. Never leave anyone in a closed car, even for a short time, especially older people as well as children and animals. Be careful with animals tied up in the house without access to cool places, without shadows or without ventilation.
  2. Drink 2 or 3 litres of liquids a day, especially water and juice. An ideal drink can be oral saline, homemade saline or sports drinks. Do not drink alcoholic beverages with caffeine or excess sugar. They should not be too cold either, as they cause stomach pain. You should drink without being thirsty and this is a piece of advice that should be extended to all Gerontological centres that have people in a situation of immobilisation or with neurodegenerative diseases. The sensation of thirst decreases in the elderly and more so if they have had cerebral vascular problems (thrombosis, heart attacks...). Drink without thirst.
  3. If there is intense activity, it should be concentrated at the beginning or end of the day. Shopping should be included in this activity.
  4. Take frequent breaks from any activity.
  5. Wear light, loose and light clothes. Avoid fibres and basically use cotton (the thicker the better). It is important to cover your head.
  6. Photo-protection: in general, 50+ protection on the face and 20-40 on the body. Wear approved sunglasses during the periods of greatest risk: between 12 and 5 pm.
  7. Eat light, frequent meals rich in salads, fruit and yoghurt. Eat five small meals a day containing fruit and vegetables, avoiding fried foods and sausages because they are rich in salt and, as well as causing thirst, can increase body sweating and fluid loss.
  8. The refreshing bath or shower should be done slowly and without sudden temperature contrasts, especially during periods of digestion: a prudent time could be two hours.
  9. Check frequently how children and elderly people are doing, especially if they are alone or dependent.
  10. Consult a doctor if there are risks between the medication and the heat that the elderly person takes: diuretics, hypotensives, antihypertensives in general and medication used for psychosis or sedatives. All these drugs can make our organism somewhat lazy in its responses to hyperthermia.
  11. If symptoms of exhaustion appear: go to a cool, shady place, rest and drink liquids.
  12. During the day close windows and darken the house, open and air the house in the evening and at night.
  13. The fan can help to cool us down by moving air.
  14. If the heat is repeated, the option will be to enter the culture of home air conditioning. In any case, we must be alert to use community facilities, especially cinemas, restaurants, shopping areas, savings banks, banks... that have air conditioning.

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