South Africa is experiencing record-breaking temperatures that are gripping the interior. In some parts of South Africa today, the mercury is expected to reach in excess of 40 degrees. As the heatwave intensifies, South Africa also experiences its most severe drought since 1992. How can seniors prevent heat exhaustion in these conditions?
A little bit of sunshine is good for you. Sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones.
But too much heat can pose a serious health threat, especially as you get older. A recent University of Chicago Medical Centre study found that 40% of heat-related fatalities were among elderly people.
‘Older people can’t adjust as well to temperature changes, and their ability to notice those changes diminishes,’ says Ruth Johnson, who has more than 12 years’ experience as a caregiver, in a recent Times News article.
‘The process of perspiration, which is our body’s natural cooling system, declines as we age, as does our sense of thirst,’ she continues. ‘Also, seniors may have health conditions or take medications that make it harder for them to acclimate.’
Be aware of the symptoms and signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion during this summer, and specifically during this heatwave, and take the necessary precautions to keep cool.
Heat exhaustion occurs as a result of decreased blood pressure caused by the loss of body fluids and electrolytes. Certain groups of people (such as the elderly, the young and diabetics) are more at risk of suffering heat exhaustion.
This condition can become quite serious if immediate action isn’t taken. Symptoms develop very quickly, especially after exercising in the heat, and can include:
• Feeling listless, weak and/or dizzy
• Rapid pulse
• Nausea and vomiting
Quickly move the affected person to a cool place and give them water to drink. Lay the person on his back and elevate his legs and pelvis. If the person doesn’t feel better within half an hour, call a doctor.
Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperature becomes dangerously high due to prolonged exposure to heat. It typically occurs in hot, humid conditions.
Heatstroke is of special concern in seniors and people with heart disease.
Symptoms may include:
• Rapid pulse
• Hot, dry and red skin
This condition is a medical emergency and an ambulance or doctor should be called immediately. Give the affected person water to drink, try to cool them off with damp towels, and keep them out of the heat while you wait for medical assistance.
What you can do
Here are the most effective strategies to safely navigate the hot summer months, and specifically this current heatwave:
• Try to restrict any strenuous outdoor physical activity to the cooler times of day (early morning or late afternoon).
• Seek shade when the sun is at its highest (between 10:00 and 16:00). In fact, try and stay indoors during a heatwave.
• Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses if you have to be outdoors.
• If you’re in the sun during the warmest part of the day, apply and reapply a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen (SPF 30+).
• Stay hydrated by drinking water at regular intervals. Be careful not to overdo your drinking, though, as it’s also possible to over-hydrate.
• Ensure persons with mobility problems have adequate fluids within easy reach.
• Spend time in air-conditioned areas during the hottest times of the day.
• Check that your medication doesn’t affect your sensitivity to heat. If it does, talk to your doctor about other precautionary measures.
Keep these precautions top of mind and survive the heatwave.
Article – courtesy of Mediclinic Prime