The summer heat can be dangerous – especially for the youngest and the eldest portions of society. Each year millions of people are affected by heat related illnesses, injury, and even death. These illnesses occur when the body is not able to cool itself in an effective manner. If the body temperature rises too quickly, the sweating mechanism is not enough to ward off these kinds of injuries. Most, if not all, could have been avoided, had the people known how to protect themselves from the summer sun. Knowing how heat related injuries present themselves and their causes is essential for the care provider and family members of the elderly.
Here is a list of precaution that the care provider and family members of the elderly should follow when venturing into the summer heat.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding drinks that contain caffeine, sugar and alcohol. These drinks deplete the body of fluid rather than restoring it. Waiting until you are thirsty to drink water defeats the purpose because your body is already showing signs of dehydration, which is a precursor to heat related injury. Water consumption could be increased, if not doubled, during times of exertion in high temperatures.
- Never leave an elderly person alone in an unconditioned vehicle for any length of time. Temperatures inside the car can be as much as thirty degrees higher than the outside air temperature during the hottest part of the day.
- Severe burns can result from coming in contact with chairs, car interiors, seat belt buckles, and any other surface that may have been heated by the sun. Always check the temperature of these items before using.
- The hottest part of the day is from 10am until 4pm. Outdoor activities should be very limited or discontinued during these hours.
- Dress in light-weight, light-colored cotton clothing. Cotton allows the skin to breathe and for air to circulate. This helps in the body’s cooling process. Synthetic fabrics and dark colors trap the body’s heat next to the skin and cause the body’s temperature to rise.
- Listening to the body’s warning signs goes a long way in preventing heat-related illnesses. Excessive sweating, rapid heart rate, cramps, headache, fatigue, and excessive thirst are all symptoms that the body isn’t able to cool itself as effectively as it needs to. If an elderly person begins to exhibit any of these symptoms, they should be moved to an air conditioned space and given cool fluids to drink as soon as possible.
A care provider has an enormous amout of responsibility when it comes to looking after an elder and unfortunately even a nice summers day is not a time to relax.