For most Australians, the summer period is synonymous with high temperatures, longer days and an increased social calendar. However, in combination with increased physical activity and the rising mercury, summer can quickly become a catalyst for heat-related illnesses and injuries, particularly amongst older generations.
According to statistics, more than 2.5 million elderly Australians are at risk of serious injury due to heat-related illnesses. The increased heat can lead to hyperthermia, dehydration, heatstroke, cramps and rashes, all of which can be potentially fatal. But why are older Australians more vulnerable?
Registered Nurse and Founder of Prestige Inhome Care Nick McDonald, says that because the elderly are unable to cool themselves down to a normal temperature, they are more vulnerable to these types of illnesses.
“Older Australians are more prone to heat stress and exhaustion as their body does not cope well to sudden or prolonged temperature changes, and just a few degrees variation in body temperature can have a significant impact,” says Nick.
The signs of heat-related illness can be varied; they include hot and dry skin, nausea and vomiting, paleness, disorientation or the worsening of pre-existing medical conditions. To help manage and prevent heat-related illnesses, Nick has created his top five tips to make sure you stay safe during summer:
- Air flow – make sure your home is fully equipped with an air conditioner or electric fan with adequate cross ventilation
- Keep cool – things like wet towels and washers are a quick and easy way to cool down your body temperature
- Check in – make sure you not only look after yourself, but also check in on older friends, family or neighbours frequently, either by phone or in person to look for signs of heat stress or exhaustion
- Stay hydrated – ensure you drink plenty of water and fluid to stay hydrated during hotter days
- Be alert – it’s important to listen to your body and monitor any changes. When in doubt, seek professional advice.
For those who like to exercise regularly, Nick say it’s important to only participate in low-level activity on hotter days and to have a work-out buddy with you or notify family and friends where you are going and how long you will be.
“When exercising, make sure you monitor your heart rate and don’t overexert yourself because this can not only potentially make you sick, but long-term injuries are more likely to occur because the body is already tired from having to work harder in the heat,” says Nick.
“Always make sure you have an exercise buddy or notify family and friends where you will be so you have immediate help if something were to happen to you”.
Have you experience heat-related illnesses? What happened? How do you avoid it?