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Take care of elderly amid deadly heatwave in India

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It’s officially the time to enjoy the cool rainfall, but some parts of India are dealing with a sweltering heatwave. Last week, the Indian Meteorological Department had even issued a red alert warning for extreme heat in north Indian states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. There is still no official confirmation on the death toll due to heatwave in India, but the Associated Press reported that nearly 100 people have died over the last several days amid heatwave. It was found that most of those who died were over 60 years old. They also had preexisting health conditions, which might have been exacerbated by the unbearable heat. It is vital to protect the elderly from heatstroke which could occur due to the heatwave. So, how can you help keep elderly safe in extreme heat?

To help you with tips, HealthShots connected with Dr Pankaj Verma, Senior Consultant – Internal Medicine, at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram.

heatwave
Pay more attention to older adults during heatwave. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What is heatwave?

A heatwave is the long period of excessively hot weather when the temperature is high. It is often accompanied by high humidity, says Dr Verma. The extreme heat and humidity during heatwaves can lead to various health problems, including heat exhaustion, heatstroke, dehydration, and exacerbation of existing health conditions.

How to keep elderly safe in extreme heat?

The expert shared that it is generally observed that older adults, particularly those above 60, are more susceptible to the adverse effects of heatwave. This is because the ability of the body to regulate temperature decreases with age, making it harder for older people to cope with extreme heat. Also, elders might have pre-existing health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes or they might be taking medications. These can impair their ability to adapt to heat stress. That in turn increases their vulnerability.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Keep them hydrated

Encourage elders in your family to drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic cooling drinks to maintain proper hydration. Offer fluids regularly and ensure that they have easy access to water throughout the day.

2. Let them stay indoors

Advise seniors to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day, typically from late morning to early evening when temperatures just shoot up. Encourage them to limit outdoor activities and find cooler and air-conditioned spaces.

3. Use cooling methods

If air conditioning is available then ensure it is working properly and set at a comfortable temperature. If not then provide alternative cooling methods such as fans, cool damp towels or cold baths to help lower the body temperature, suggests Dr Verma.

heatwave
It’s the best time to have cooling drinks. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

4. Make them dress appropriately

You can tell them to wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothes made of breathable fabrics to help them stay cool. Light colours are preferable as they reflect sunlight.

5. Protect them from the sun

They can’t be locked in their own home the whole day. If they have to step out, advise them to use wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) to protect them from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, says the expert.

6. Check on them regularly

You should regularly check on older adults, especially those living alone, to ensure that they are coping well with the heat. Encourage your other family members, friends or neighbours to help in monitoring their well-being.

7. Provide adequate ventilation

Ensure there is proper airflow in living spaces, even if air conditioning is not available. You can open windows or use fans to improve ventilation and create a more comfortable environment.

You can take steps to look after the elders of your family, but you should also educate them about the risks of heatwaves and the preventive measures they can take.

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