Can Summer Affect Your Health?
Our body normally works hard to combat the temperature fluctuations and maintain a normal body temperature and function. But when exposed to high heat for a long time it becomes more difficult for the body and leads to illness. The heat-related illness risk and severity is more among the elderly.
Why Are Seniors at Risk?The deaths due to heat-related illnesses are more among the elderly. The following reasons explain why the elderly are at greater risk.
- Prone to heart and blood vessel diseases
- Poor sweat gland function with aging
- Changes in the skin
- Associated diseases of heart, kidney or lung make them weaker and prone to heat ill effects
- In patients on medications like diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers; it is difficult to cool the body temperature
- Overweight and underweight are also risk factors
- Excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol also add up to the risk
Problems Among the Elderly During Summer and their TreatmentToo much of heat is not good, especially in the elderly. It can lead to subsequent heat-related illnesses such as:
Heat syncope: It is a sudden dizziness due to high heat exposure. Patients on beta blockers are more prone to heat syncope. Move to a cool place, lie down and raise the legs and drink plenty of liquids.
Heat cramps: It occurs due to excessive exercise in high heat. Heat cramps are painful contractions of the muscle in arms, calves and abdomen. It is due to heavy loss of water and electrolytes from the body. Drink plenty of liquid, rest in cool place and avoid exercise for several hours. Fruits like banana and apple are potassium-rich and hence are recommended for patients with heat cramps.
Heat edema: The foot and ankle swell due to excessive heat. Stay in a cool place and stay hydrated. Raise your legs.
Heat exhaustion: It is due to failure of the body to maintain normal temperature on exposure to high temperatures. It can progress to heat stroke. The person may have dizziness, thirst, nausea, fatigue, fainting, weakness, loss of coordination, low BP, rapid pulse, excessive sweating, muscle cramps and headache. Let the patient rest in a cool place. Give him plenty of fluids. Seek medical care immediately if there is no improvement.
Heat stroke: It is due to high temperature, high humidity, physical exertion, failure to remove the excess heat from the body and dehydration. It is an emergency. Delay in treatment can lead to many complications or even death. The patient can have high temperatures >104 F, increased pulse, increased breathing, dry and hot skin, headache, flushing of the skin, altered mental status, seizures and coma. Immediate emergency care is essential. Rapid cooling of the body by immersion in cold water is important to prevent organ damage and death.
Summer Safety Tips for Elderly
- Drink plenty of liquids: Drink plenty of water, at least 8 glasses of water per day. Drink fruit juices, vegetable juices, electrolyte water and coconut water. Hydrate the body well.
- Sunscreen: Sunscreens with SPF 30 or more block the UV rays and protect the skin to prevent sunburns.
- Avoid excess heat: Use hats, umbrellas and shades to avoid excess heat. Stay indoors in the afternoon. Stay in an air-conditioned place or near the air coolers.
- Dress appropriately: Wear light colored and loose clothes. Prefer cottons.
- Take showers: If it is very hot and you donít have an air conditioner or air cooler, take a tepid water bath to lower the body temperature. Sponge bath also helps to lower the body temperature.
- Exercise appropriately: Avoid excessive exercise when it is hot. Exercise indoors in air-conditioned halls. Exercise in the morning or late in the evening.
- Protect your eyes: Use sunglasses to prevent UV rays and its ill effects on the eyes.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Alcohol and caffeine drinks can dehydrate the body, so avoid them.
- Stay in touch: If your near and dear elders donít live close by, stay in contact and make sure they are safe.
- If you are old and living alone avoid strenuous activities when the temperatures are high.
- Avoid crowded places.
- Donít leave the elders in the car.