While extremely hot weather can put everyone at risk, older adults are especially susceptible to conditions such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fainting and swelling of the hands and feet. Left unchecked, heat-related illnesses can become dangerous, even fatal.
In fact, anyone with the following conditions should be particularly careful about extreme heat this summer:
• Breathing difficulties
• Heart or kidney problems
• A mental illness such as depression or dementia
• Parkinson’s disease
If you or an older adult in your care takes medication or has a health condition, ask your doctor or pharmacist if the heat or sun will affect these medications. Be sure to follow their recommendations.
Tips for helping to stay cool at home
• Tune into local weather forecasts so you know when to take precautions
• Arrange for friends, family or caregivers to visit you regularly. Visitors will often notice signs of heat illness such as swelling of the hands, feet and ankles, heat rash and heat cramps (muscle cramps) before you do
• Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If you start to feel confused or if you have a high temperature or feel like you might faint, call 911. Check your air conditioner to ensure it works properly. Keep the temperature as cool as is comfortable for you (somewhere between 22°C/72°F and 26°C/79°F)
• Use a fan if you have no air conditioner
• Drink plenty of fluids before you become thirsty. Leave a glass by the sink to remind yourself
• Eat more fruits and vegetables as they have a high water count
• Wear loose-fitting clothes
• Prepare meals that require no heating
• Keep your curtains or blinds closed
• Take cool showers or baths
• If safe, open your windows at night
Helping yourself and those you care for to prevent heat-related illness could be a matter of life and death. The best defence is awareness. You can find more tips in a series of free brochures published by Health Canada, which you can order at 1-866-225-0709. Additional information is available on the Internet at Canada.ca by searching for Extreme Heat.