Advice for Older Adults
As we get older (over 65 years) we can become more at risk of heat-related illnesses. This risk is higher if we live alone, are bed-bound, have certain health conditions or take some types of medicines.
Our body changes as we age. The signs that we are becoming too hot, or dehydrated (low on fluid), can be harder to spot sometimes. Some medicines might make this worse. As our body gets older, the way we sweat can change. This can mean we don’t cool down as quickly or effectively as we did before. Your GP or pharmacist will be able to advise you if any of your medicines might make you more likely to become ill from the heat.
If you are over 65 or if you care for an older person, these tips might help:
- Try and stay cool – putting a damp cloth around your neck can help, or putting your feet in a bowl a cool water. Make sure you turn off the heating, and turn off any lights or electrical appliances that you are not using.
- Keep out the heat - increase shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight
- Use natural ventilation such as open windows when the air feels cooler outside than inside (e.g at night) and where it is safe, secure and feasible to do so
- Increase air flow through buildings wherever possible
- If you are using air conditioning, make sure it is using a fresh air supply, which is important to prevent spread of Covid-19
- Electric fans need to be used with caution, as they may not be safe for higher temperatures and should not be used where a person may be incubating or a case of Covid-19
- Drink plenty of water during the whole day. Bring water with you wherever you go. Take sips even if you don’t feel very thirsty. Drink enough during the day so your pee is a pale clear colour. If your doctor has told you not to drink too much water because of a health condition you have, get advice from them about how to stay hydrated during the heat.
- Eat small, cool meals. We often feel less hungry in hotter weather, but it is important to eat. Cool meals like salads and sandwiches can help you keep your energy up, without making your body or your kitchen too hot.
- Stay connected – write down the number of two or three relatives or friends. Ask them to check in on you. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still important to stay connected. Phone calls, texts and even video calls are a very safe way of doing this. You might need help to make sure you have everything you need to stay healthy during a heatwave. If you know an older person who lives on their own, try and connect with them to make sure they have everything they need.
- Shop while the temperatures are dropped - Try and do your shopping and other chores early on in the day, before the heat is at its strongest. If you do need to be outdoors, take breaks in a shaded or air conditioned areas. If you are cooling down indoors in a public space, protect yourself by wearing your mask and keeping your distance from others.
- Dress for the weather – we are all used to layering our clothes in Ireland! But during a heatwave most people find that light-coloured loose clothing is more comfortable as well as helping them stay cool.
- If you don’t feel well, act fast to get medical help. Remember that hospital emergency departments and your GP are open for business. Never be afraid to get medical help if you need it, even during the pandemic. Your healthcare team will take every precaution to keep you safe while they look after your health.
When to get medical help
If you feel unwell and especially if you:
- are confused and disorientated
- feel very dizzy
- have not peed all day
- feel like your heart is beating fast
- have fits (seizures)
- are caring for someone who is drowsy or difficult to wake
These can be signs of serious dehydration that need urgent treatment.