Older Victorians warned about life-threatening heatstroke
As Victorians continue to sweat through hot summer days, some people in our community are more vulnerable to heat-related illness. These include people over the age of 65, young children and people with certain pre-existing medical condition.
Alfred Health’s Director of Aged Care, A/Prof Peter Hunter, is urging everyone to be vigilant of older people in our community as they can deteriorate very quickly in hot weather.
“As we get older, our bodies can’t cope with sudden stress, like heat, as quickly as when we were younger,” said A/Prof Hunter.
“One of the big problems in hot weather is elderly skin is not able to produce sweat and cool the body as efficiently as younger skin. This can cause the body’s core temperature to rise to dangerous levels and result in heatstroke.”
Risk factors and symptoms
Some older people have reduced mobility or mental illness that can make it difficult to care for themselves in hot weather. This could include an inability to get up to fill their water glass or turn the fan on.
“Older people who live alone are at greater risk. If symptoms of heat stress are ignored or you are unable to cool yourself, it can result in death from heatstroke,” said A/Prof Hunter.
“Signs of heat stress include hot and dry skin, dizziness, headache and cramps. A rapid heart rate, nausea and disorientation are also symptoms.”
For more information about symptoms to watch for please visit: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/heat-stress-and-heat-related-illness
Some medications increase the risk of heatstroke by acting on an area of the brain that controls the skin’s ability to sweat.
“It’s important to ask your doctor about how your medication may affect your body in heat, for example, diuretics (fluid tablets) act on the kidneys and encourage fluid loss. This can quickly lead to dehydration in hot weather.
“Drink lots of fluids, unless your doctor has advised otherwise,” A/Prof Hunter said.
What can you do to help the vulnerable?
It’s important to keep an eye on family, friends and neighbours who are vulnerable to heat-related illness. Simple steps like dressing in light, minimal clothing can help the body cope.
“Knowing about their medical background, having emergency numbers, and checking on them every day is important. People at high risk of heat stress – such as those who live alone, are frail, bedridden or mentally ill, should be checked at least twice a day.
“If air conditioning isn’t available, consider cool showers or use wet towels and sit in front of an electric fan.
“Having a cold beer on a hot day is also not recommended – alcohol can lead to greater dehydration,” A/Prof Hunter said.
For more information on how to prevent heatstroke please visit: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/heat-stress-and-heat-related-illness