The Heat is ON

Summertime for a senior adult with multiple chronic conditions means new challenges for caregivers to add to their radar.  Family Physician and Epidemiologist Dr. Ozzie Ahmed remind us to look out for these summertime hazards:

  1. Heat exhaustion comes before heat strokes often referred to as heat cramps where the body is starting to overheat caused by water depletion or salt depletion.  Both can have very serious effects leading to confusion, fainting and more serious condition
  2. In fact, heatstroke symptoms mimic many other minor health complaints but when they occur together can spell real trouble.  Watch out for headaches; nausea; mental confusion; hot, dry and red skin alternating with chills and sweating; rapid breathing and a temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  Heatstroke can cause organ damage.
  3. Some high blood pressure medications can predispose a person to dehydration.  This is particularly important in seniors with a reduced thirst sensation.  Caregivers should keep an eye on the number of fluids ingested and eliminated especially in very hot conditions.
  4. Lastly, sun Exposure – wear sunscreen to reduce the likelihood of sunburns when outdoors.  Senior adults are at a higher risk of skin cancer.

Dr. Ozzie’s recommendations to caregivers

  1. Keep your loved ones in air conditioning or in a well-ventilated room with a fan blowing.  Do not leave a senior in a hot car while running errands, the temperature rises quickly in the heat of the day; much faster than the line in the grocery store.
  2. If your senior is living independently, check on them frequently.  Make sure the windows and doors are in good working order and allow for natural ventilation if an air conditioner is not installed.
  3. Have you considered Rearranging the senior’s closest putting the loose-fitting cotton clothes within easy reach?  Lightweight clothes provide natural ventilation and wick moisture away from the skin.
  4. Stock drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade, that will replenish lost nourishment and keeps the body well hydrated.
  5. Be sure to include food items containing natural salt in the summertime diet also to replenish nutrients.
  6. Don’t forget to discuss symptoms to look for with specific medications and excessive heat exposure. Be sure to have an honest discussion about how much outdoor activity is appropriate in the summertime.