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Tips and advice

Why older people are at risk in the heat and what to do

Summer is here, and so too the is the extreme heat.

For older folks, this can be a serious problem with heat stress and heat-related illness becoming a real risk as the temperatures soar.

While heat stress can impact any of us, those aged 65+ may be at increased risk due to certain medications, health conditions and living alone. Knowing the risks, and understanding how to stay well and safe in the heat can be the difference between simply feeling hot and bothered, and more serious outcomes.

Working to help clients stay well during summer is a key part of our role, so we've compiled some basic health advice to help clarify why are older people more at risk of heat stress and what to do about it.

Heat stress – who is at risk?

A person’s health and living situation are important factors, and those who may be at increased risk and vulnerable in the heat include anyone:

  • With self-care problems such reduced mobility or mental illness
  • Living alone and not aware of the signs & symptoms of deterioration
  • With chronic medical problems that make it harder for the body respond and regulate heat
  • With kidney problems and taking medications, which can be affected by fluid intake

Medications and hot weather

Some medications are of particular concern in relation to heat, so if you’re taking regular medications, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor for advice. Here’s some examples of how medications can add to the risk of heat stress.

Problems in the heat
  • Antidepressants, antihistamines, phenothiazines & anticholinergics
Act on an area of the brain that controls the skin’s ability to make sweat
  • Beta blockers
Reduce the ability of the heart and lungs to adapt to stresses like hot weather
  • Amphetamines
Raise body temperature
  • Diuretics (fluid tablets)
Act on the kidneys to increase with fluid loss, which can lead to dehydration in the heat  
  • Opioids and sedatives
Reduce the sensation of physical discomfort, so symptoms of heat stress could be missed

Further reading: Looking to save money with your Home Care Package?

Discover the benefits and drawbacks of Self-managed vs Provider-managed Home Care Packages, so you can decide what's best for you. Read article.

Signs and symptoms of heat stress

Heat stress occurs when the body can’t maintain a healthy temperature, and natural cooling systems like sweating don’t work. Instead, body temperature keeps rising, and a range of heat-related illnesses may occur.

These include mild conditions such as a rash or cramps to serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as heatstroke. The symptoms depend on the heat-related illness, but may include:

  • paleness
  • rapid heart rate
  • hot, dry skin
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea & vomiting
  • disorientation & confusion
  • fainting or coma
  • worsening existing medical conditions

Practical tips for helping to reduce your risk of heat stress

Temperatures above 37 °C are particularly dangerous, but taking practical steps to reduce risk begins as soon as the temperature reaches 30 °C. Here's some ways to stay safe:

Keep up with weather reports
– any day the temperature is predicted to rise above 30 °C, take extra  steps to avoid heat stress, and be aware that high humidity also adds risk.

Review medications with your doctor
– book an appointment to see your doctor and discuss any changes to medications during summer.

Limit caffeine and alcohol
– these can increase fluid loss as they have a mild diuretic action, and therefore, increase the risk of dehydration.

Check the colour of your pee
– dark yellow or brownish urine indicates dehydration.

Keep cool at home
– draw your blinds & curtains, turn on your air conditioner, take cool showers and use wet towels on your body in front of a fan.

A helping hand from family/friends
– have family and friends create a care plan for hot weather, so everyone knows about any risks and how to help you. Ways friends and family might help include:

  • More regular visits and check ins, including up to 2x per day if at high risk (living alone, frail, bedridden, mentally ill)
  • Have emergency contact information, medication lists and doctors contact details easily accessible
  • Taking you to an air-conditioned place such as a shopping centre, cinema or library for a respite from the heat
  • Understanding simple first aid for heat stress & what to look out for

What to do if noticing signs of heat stress

If someone seems to be suffering from heat stress, they need to be cooled down as quickly as possible. Use whatever is on hand, like a wet sponge or place them into a cool shower, and seek immediate medical help:

Call triple zero (000) in an emergency; or

Nurse-on-call for health advice & information 1300 60 60 24 (24hr/day, 7 days/week)

Need a little or a lot of help at home?

You could be eligible for up to $52,000 a year in government support.

Read more about Home Care Packages Levels or What Home Care Package funds can be used for.
Or book a free 15-minute consultation with one of our consultants.

Need support with your Home Care Package?

We’re here to help. Age Up Health provides packages that are designed to keep you happy and healthy at home, where you belong.

Our services are simple.

Expect a single fee and the same friendly face each time. And rest assured that our packages are flexible enough that you can make changes whenever you wish.

Contact us today to find out more.
Or book a free 15-minute consultation with one of our consultants.

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