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This sweltering summer, help the aged

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Australia’s notoriously hot summers can be a dangerous time, particularly for the old, the very young and the chronically ill, the AMA has warned.
As a succession of heat waves sweep the country, sending the mercury in many areas above 40 degrees Celsius, AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton has called on people to look out for each other, and to be especially vigilant for the wellbeing of elderly relatives, friends or neighbours who live alone, are chronically ill or have limited mobility.

“Many elderly have problems coping with hot weather, and they can all too easily suffer life-threatening heat stroke if others are not around to spot the warning signs and take action,” Dr Hambleton said.

As people age, their ability to cope with extremes of temperature deteriorates. The fact that many also have chronic health problems, are often taking multiple medications, and may live alone, adds to their vulnerability, he added.

“Drop by every day or two, or a couple of times a day if they live alone or are bedridden, just to see how they are going,” the AMA President said.
“Tell-tale signs that they are not coping include hot and dry skin, a rapid pulse, cramps, confusion, dizzy spells, fainting, nausea and vomiting.”

Dr Hambleton said there are several things people could do to make sure their elderly relatives and friends stayed safe when the temperature soars.
“If they don’t have air conditioning at home, take them to a cooler place like a shopping centre or library for respite from the heat.

“Make sure their home is adequately ventilated. In the absence of air conditioning, fans are a good way to move the air and help evaporation to keep bodies cool.”
He said people should be aware of any medications their elderly friends and relatives may be using, because many common drugs, such as antihistamines, heart pills, diuretics and sedatives, increased the risk of heat stress.

Adrian Rollins