Heat stress and seniors - what you need to know this summer

Published on
May 14, 2024

Heat stress and seniors - what you need to know this summer

When addressing environmental fall risks, it’s important to acknowledge that the weather plays a huge part in our well-being.

Doctors recognise this too. With Seasonal Depression, Hypothermia and Heat Stress all contributing to a large number of worldwide hospitalisations, it’s worth evaluating how the weather affects you.

In Australia, the typical summer day can peak at between 25 and 40 degrees Celsius (77 - 104 degrees Fahrenheit). The thing is, anything above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) can increase vulnerability to Heat Stress, particularly for those aged over 65.

According to the Australian Government’s Betterhealth resources, there are several things to remember with heat-related illnesses:

How to know if you’re experiencing heat stress:

Symptoms of heat-related illness can differ from person-to-person, however many of the common indicators are:

  • Hot, dry, or red skin
  • Paleness, particularly in the face
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Delirium
  • Fainting
  • Flares or worsening of pre-existing medical conditions

Can medications increase the risk of heat stress?

The simple answer is yes - some medications do have the capacity to increase the risk of heat stress.

Betterhealth has released a list of medications to be aware of in the heat:

(The below is a guide only. Under no circumstances should you discontinue medication use without prior advice from a doctor or pharmacist. )

  • Antidepressants, antihistamines, phenothiazines and anticholinergics work on an area of the brain that also controls the skin’s ability to sweat.

  • Beta blockers (heart tablets) can potentially reduce the ability of the heart and lungs to adapt to stresses - which includes hot weather.

  • Amphetamines often raise the body’s temperature, which can contribute to more heat stress symptoms.

  • Diuretics (fluid tablets) work with the kidneys to encourage fluid loss. Paired with sweating which naturally occurs with high temperatures, additional fluid loss can lead to dehydration.

  • Opioids and sedatives can potentially reduce awareness, which can make it trickier to recognise the symptoms of heat stress.
Humid and Hot

How to keep on top of the heat this summer:

The first step of protecting yourself against heat stress is understanding triggers and symptoms.

But there are also several other proactive measures you can take to ensure you’re safe in the warmer months:

  • Take note of weather reports and prepare yourself for hot days. Remember to pay attention to humidity levels as well as the temperature, as they can make a day feel a lot warmer than it actually is.

  • Have a chat to your doctor about heat stress, medication, and hydration. Your doctor can also talk you through how to understand the colours of your urine in recognising dehydration.

  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake where you can (and ensure you balance these with water if you do have a coffee or wine).

  • Keep yourself cool - stay under the fan, wear light clothing, and most importantly - hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Overall, remember if it’s a hot day, listen to your body and look after yourself. Every year thousands of people are admitted to the hospital for dehydration.

Don’t be one of them. Remember the 3 H equation:

Humid + Hot = HYDRATE.

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