As we age, we become more prone to heat stress. It is important that we are aware of some of the symptoms of heat-related illness, including rapid heartbeat, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, disorientation and confusion, fainting, delirium, paleness and hot dry skin.
There are a number of factors that may increase the risk of heat stress in older people. Older bodies do not cope as well with sudden stressors, and do not produce sweat as effectively as younger people. Some medications may also affect our ability to regulate body temperature and certain medical conditions can make us more vulnerable to the heat.
In hot weather, there are a number of simple steps we can take to keep cool and reduce the risk of heat stress. For example, staying indoors and avoiding strenuous activity helps to keep body temperature low. Drawing blinds and curtains and ensuring fans and air-conditioning are used is another great way to stay cool. Using a wet towel around your neck, placing your feet in a bowl of cold water or having a cool shower are also cheap and effective ways to beat the heat.
Some other simple measures include altering plans when extreme weather is forecast and taking advantage of free cool air in public spaces such as the cinemas, libraries or shopping centres. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day is essential – if you notice your urine is dark in colour, this may indicate you need to drink more fluids.
If you live alone, you may also choose to register with the Red Cross Telecross service, which will provide a free daily safety call to ensure you are ok and coping with the weather.
Most importantly, as the weather heats up – enjoy the sunshine and stay safe.
Executive Manager, Aged Care