We are all enjoying this amazing heatwave and having fun in the sun!  But whilst it’s lovely to be able to enjoy the sunshine, for older people, the heat can be incredibly dangerous.

We love to sit outside in the summer months, but at all of our homes, we ensure that our residents have adequate shade and drinks to stay hydrated.  We even have paddling pools in some of our homes so that everyone can dip their feet whilst enjoying a cool drink and an ice cream!

But, we appreciate that at times, older people might end up being outside for longer periods, in which case, the heat can be a problem.  So, what should you watch out for if you’re caring for an older person who happens to be outside for longer periods of time?  Things to be aware of include:

– Heat syncope or fainting due to the heat.

This happens when your body (in an effort to cool itself) causes blood vessels to dilate, which results in a reduction in blood flow to the brain. 

Symptoms include: muscle cramps, fainting, dizziness, vomiting, headache and restlessness amongst others.  If you believe you or someone you know has heat syncope, get into the shade quickly, lie down or elevate the feet and drink fluids containing a small amount of salt to replenish any electrolytes.

 – Heat oedema

As your blood vessels dilate (in an effort to reduce body heat) fluid will move into the hands or legs due to gravity.  This will cause swelling in the hands, legs and feet.  Older people are more susceptible to heat oedema as they are more likely to suffer with circulatory issues, which can increase the risk of swelling.  The best way to treat heat oedema is to move to a cooler area and elevate the area with swelling in order to drain the fluid.

 – Heat stroke

Heat stroke, also known as sun stroke, is a type of severe heat illness that results in a body temperature greater than 40.0 °C (104.0 °F) and confusion. Other symptoms include red skin, headache, and dizziness. This can be treated by moving to a cooler area and rapidly cooling the body with cold water spray and cold compresses.  Heat stroke is the most dangerous complication from being exposed to warmer weather, it’s very important to cool the body rapidly.

Anyone who is vulnerable, particularly those with heart and circulatory issues can suffer side effects from too much exposure to heat.  It’s key to mention that everyone’s tolerance to heat is different, whilst some older or vulnerable people might be able to spend longer outside, others can’t.  Tolerance to heat can also change depending on different conditions so, our advice is – don’t risk it!  Limit time outside and ensure that adequate shade and cool drinks are provided.  Paddling pools are brilliant fun and ice creams and lollies are a lovely way to cool off!

Balazs Liszka

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