If you are feeling hotter than usual there is a legitimate reason. Apart from Victoria experiencing above average daytime temperatures throughout the summer, people aged over 65 years have an increased vulnerability to heat. Health Victoria’s publication Heat Stress and Older People provides essential information about staying safe in the heat.
And the temperature has been hot – with 45 degrees Celsius reached on four separate days in January, the first month that has happened since January 2009 and the second-highest count of such hot days since 1939, states the Bureau of Meteorology.
But why does this affect older people? Well, according to Health Victoria, as we age certain health factors make it harder for the body to cool itself, including:
- Lowered ability to produce sweat, making the body’s natural cooling system less effective. This could be caused by poor circulation or changes to skin as part of the normal ageing process. The inability to perspire can also be called by medications such as diuretics and sedatives.
- Chronic heart, kidney or respiratory conditions can exacerbate the effects of the heat.
- People on salt- or liquid- restricted diets may be at increased risk. Consult your doctor on how to manage this throughout the summer.
Some tips for older people are:
- Install external blinds if you can.
- Keep all medicines away from hot places (heat can alter the efficacy of the medication).
- Drink water throughout the day, not just when you feel thirsty. If you are on a fluid restricted diet, ask your doctor how to manage in the heat.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Anything more than 30 degrees and it is time to be careful and follow Health Victoria’s guide to preventing heat stroke. Temperatures over 37 degrees are particularly dangerous; a series of hot nights that provide no relief from the heat are also cause for taking extra care of yourself.
- If you are planning to leave the air conditioning on at night, it is recommended that you keep the thermostat in the low twenties and program it to turn off at 4am.
- Take note of the colour of your urine, darker urine is a symptom of dehydration. See Continence Victoria’s colour chart Am I Hydrated?
- Remember that extreme heat can also affect infrastructure – there could be power failures or interruption of public transport.
Interested people can sign up to Health Victoria’s health alerts and advice