Due to the heat, July can be a particularly difficult time for the elderly, particularly those with chronic illnesses and/or those who take certain medications. The biggest dangers are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Luckily, these dangers can be avoided with a few, simple preventative steps. Make heat awareness part of your routine
Here are some things to consider:
- Drinks lots of cool water even when you’re not thirsty. You can dilute water with a 50/50 mix of natural fruit juices if you desire a change. Avoid alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, coffee, cola, and caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration.
- Stay out of the blazing sun or heat whenever possible. If you must go outside, stay in the shade as much as possible and try to go out early in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler.
- Wear a hat and loose fitting, comfortable clothes with materials like cotton, linen, and silk. Avoid synthetic fabrics as they retain heat and may make you more uncomfortable.
- Take advantage of air conditioning or cool places like shopping malls, libraries, movie theatres, etc.
- If you don’t have air conditioning, keep shades or drapes down and blinds closed on the sunny side of the house, but keep windows slightly open to allow for ventilation.
- Keep electric lights off or turned down low, and turn off all unnecessary electrical appliances, such as computers and TV’s which generate a lot of heat.
- Avoid heavy meals and using your oven.
- Be aware that certain medications make it harder for your body to control its temperature and/or may make it easier for your skin to burn. This includes both common prescription and over the counter drugs. Consult your doctor or pharmacist regarding side effects of your medications.
- Use a fan in the house near the window to bring in the cooler air from the outside. Don’t use a fan in a closed room without windows or doors open to the outside.
Various signs of heat-related illness include rapid breathing, weakness or fainting, headache, confusion, and feeling more tired than usual. You can help a family member or friend who demonstrates these symptoms by cooling them down with lukewarm water, giving them cool (not ice cold) water to drink, moving them to a cooler location, removing excess clothing and spraying them with a fine mist of water and then allowing a fan to blow air over them. This will speed evaporation from the skin, causing their temperature to lower and stabilizing them until further help arrives.