GOING out or even staying home when the weather gets really hot takes the fun out of doing things. The recent abnormally hot weather has affected us all. As usual, social media is rife with warnings and information, some of which are not true.
The weather has certainly been sunny, hot and humid, but according to the Malaysian Meteorological Department, “we have not reached the heatwave temperature of 37°C, let alone the so-called predicted 40°C” (at the time this article is written).
Arguments aside, when the weather gets unbearably hot, it’s time to relook at how we deal with a heatwave, especially when we have loved ones in our care, particularly the elderly, infants and pets.
Let’s start with the car. Did you know that on a hot, sunny day, the temperature inside the car can rise quite drastically? For example, if the weather is 32°C, the temperature inside the car can rise to 40 degrees or more!
Anyone left in the car with the windows up and the engine off, even for just a few minutes, can suffer.
It can be downright dangerous for those with health issues. So when the weather gets really hot, you need to be mindful of your surroundings and plan your day properly.
If you have to take your ailing or frail loved one out, time it for the earlier part of the morning or late afternoon.
The hottest hours are usually between 11am and 4pm. If the hours don’t suit your plans for the day, ensure that you find parking closest to the entrance so that they don’t have to suffer the heat unnecessarily.
COOLING DOWN WHEN TEMPERATURES SOAR
Wear loose, lightweight clothing that’s light-coloured and made of cotton if possible. Use a pair of sunglasses, a hat or even an umbrella to fend off direct sunlight. Elderly folks with chronic health conditions (like vascular diseases or diabetes) and disabled people are unable to feel the heat the same way as healthy adults.
Their heart rates don’t speed up or return as fast upon exertion. Those with poor circulation, heart, lung and kidney diseases, and/or hypertension, or are excessively overweight or underweight are at risk of heat-related illness too.
Those on certain medications can also be at risk, especially when their body system cannot process the fact that it’s dangerously hot and regulate their body’s response to heat. Certain medications may, on the other hand, increase sensitivity to heat.
Older people’s skin tends to be thinner and therefore has less protection from heat and the sun. That’s why they tend to feel cold, more so than the rest of us. For the elderly, it may be a good idea to layer their clothing, or have a shawl or cardigan handy.
On a hot day, it’s always important to stay hydrated and drink even when you don’t feel thirsty. In fact, many reports say that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
So before you get to that point, you should sip cool water throughout the day. You can keep a 1.5-litre or 2-litre bottle per person just so you know you’ve been drinking enough.
For the elderly, it may be a good idea to use some sort of an alarm or timer to remind them to drink. You may also want to change your menu to meals that have high water content.
For example, you may want to eat cold vegetable soups, ice-lollies and chilled fruits. Avoid heavy meals. People on haemodialysis should watch their fluid intake. Ask the doctor for advice.
Avoid alcohol, coffee and tea because they can be quite dehydrating. Find alternatives to replace them, or chase these drinks with at least a glass of water immediately.
When at home, try not to use the oven to prepare food. Need a cake? Go out and buy it. You don’t need more heat inside your house.
KEEPING COOL AT HOME
The strategy for keeping your house cool is to open the windows in the early mornings and evenings to let the cool air in, and close the windows when it gets hot outside. Make sure that you don’t close the curtains because you still need sunlight for your brain to cue your body to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm and sleep time. This is especially important for those who are unwell.
If your house doesn’t have air-conditioning and the fan is blowing more hot air, you may want to take your loved one to a cooler place like the shopping mall. Of course, choose one that isn’t too busy or noisy.
A cool shower or sponge bath is another way to help you deal with the heat. Keep the water just slightly below body temperature. Placing a cool washcloth at the back of the neck or soaking your feet in a basin of cool water can be very soothing.
When the conditions around you change, you simply need to be a more attentive to the needs of those in your care. Remember, when in doubt or when you see something out of the ordinary, check with your doctor.