Canadian summers are full of extremes. One day it could be pleasantly warm and the next it’s scorching hot, almost unbearable. While extreme heat can put everyone at risk, seniors are particularly vulnerable for conditions such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fainting and swelling of the hands and feet. Left unchecked, heat-related illnesses can become dangerous, even fatal.
For seniors, heat can be extremely dangerous, especially those who are chronically ill or take certain medications that interfere with their body’s natural cooling mechanisms. Those who are isolated from friends, family or neighbours and those who live in poverty or who have low literacy rates are also at risk.
Here are 10 tips to help stay healthy, cool and safe during the summer:
• Check for weather forecasts on the radio or TV for heat alerts.
• Ask family members, neighbours or friends to check on you when the mercury soars.
• Wear loose-fitting clothing.
• Drink plenty of fluid and eat fruits and vegetables as they have high water content.
• Prepare cold meals that keep your oven turned off.
• Keep your air conditioner or thermostat between 22oC/72oF and 26oC/79oF.
• Use a fan to help stay cool and aim the air flow in your direction.
• Block the sun by closing awnings, curtains or blinds during the day.
• If safe, open windows at night to let cooler air into your home.
• Take cool showers or baths until you feel refreshed. Make sure to use non-slip surfaces in the tub or shower.
Heat stroke can occur indoors or outdoors and is a medical emergency. If you are a senior or are visiting an elderly friend or relative regularly, watch for signs of heat stroke such as a high body temperature, confusion, no perspiration or unconsciousness. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
There are more ways to protect yourself in high heat at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/sun. Heat-health brochures can also be ordered for free by calling the federal government information line at 1-800-O-Canada.