Help older people to stay cool this summer

Joan Timpson  |  July 17, 2013

With a heatwave affecting large parts of Britain, Sunrise of Beaconsfield featured in this ITN national news report on how people are coping. Older people, in particular, have to take extra care during hot weather.

Summer is an ideal time to enjoy the great outdoors and spend some time with family and friends. Summertime, however, can also pose a threat to people's health, particularly the elderly. High temperatures and increased humidity can make older people extremely uncomfortable and pose a serious risk to their health. This summer, help your older relatives to stay safe and have fun in the sun by following these simple tips.

Stay hydrated

One of the primary risk factors for senior citizens in hot weather is becoming dehydrated. This danger is exacerbated by the fact that some elderly people may not realize they are dehydrated until it is too late. To combat the effects of dehydration, elderly people should drink more water than usual, and avoid natural diuretics like coffee that can lead to more frequent urination and subsequent dehydration. In addition, senior citizens should eat more cold foods such as salad and fruit, as they contain higher concentrations of water.

Beat the heat

Although it may seem obvious, remaining out of direct sunlight at the hottest point in the day is one of the best ways elderly people can reduce the potentially harmful effects of warm weather. Senior citizens should seek shelter around noon on hot days, preferably with either a suitably strong fan or an air conditioner. In the event this is not possible, elderly people should attempt to remain in the shade whenever they can. In addition, it is important for senior citizens to use sunscreen of at least SPF 15 when exposed to direct sunlight, as sunburns can lead to skin infections and other complications if left untreated.

Involve the family GP

Certain medical conditions can be more serious during hot weather, particularly respiratory illnesses like asthma and heart conditions. Be sure to stay up to date with weather forecasts, and if a heatwave is predicted, you may want to talk to the family GP in the event that additional medication is necessary. Similarly, discuss any potential health risks that hot weather poses to your relative if they have preexisting conditions, as prolonged heat and humidity can have an effect on everything from an individual's metabolism to his or her blood circulation.

If your loved one lives in an assisted living community or nursing home, you may want to discuss your concerns about heat-related conditions to ensure your relative has a happy and healthy summer.