Do's and Don'ts for Seniors

Heat is always synonymous with fatigue. This can lead to the aggravation of an illness or heat stroke, when the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature, explains Dr. Khadija Moussayer, noting that air pollution further accentuates these effects. , especially in large cities like Casablanca.

Specialist in internal medicine and geriatrics, Dr. Khadija Moussayer returned in a publication to MoroccoLatestNews UK, on summer heat and the risks it poses to the elderly who are the most vulnerable. Their physiological aging leads to alterations in all the functions of the body, such as the nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, musculoskeletal, immune, excretory (for the elimination of toxins), sensory and respiratory systems, she explains, noting that the main danger is ” the dehydration “.

In particular, the body produces more sweat in order to preserve the body’s natural functions and evacuate heat through water. This production of sweat must imperatively be compensated by a sufficient supply of water. Generally, the feeling of thirst is dulled in the elderly and the body’s temperature regulation mechanism works less well.“, warns the specialist.

Other phenomena can aggravate the situation, she specifies, such as the increased risk of hypotension (and falls), the reduction of taste and smell causing a decrease in appetite or even the reduction of activity of the sweat glands (the source of sweat).

Medication risks

It’s not just the elderly who are most at risk from summer heat. People with chronic illnesses, mental or weakened by infections, malnourished or overweight are also much more fragile explains Dr. Moussayer.

Certain medications can also aggravate dehydration or heatstroke and it is advisable to speak to the attending physician. This is particularly the case for certain drugs acting on: hydration, kidney function, the heart, certain antibiotics, certain antidepressants and drugs used in neurology and psychiatry” , she says.

Thus, Dr. Moussayer advises avoiding antipyretics such as paracetamol, used to lower fever, but ineffective in the event of heat stroke and can even aggravate liver damage that is sometimes present. Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including molecules such as ibuprofen, can also be very harmful, underlines the specialist, for a dehydrated person, specifying that self-medication is to be avoided.

During a lasting situation of high heat, Dr. Moussayer insists on the need to consult your doctor to reassess the treatments in progress, paying particular attention in the oldest subjects to the combination of nephrotoxic drugs (toxic for the kidneys) and the combination of a neuroleptic with an anticholinergic drug (a type of drug taken to treat allergies, sleep, nausea, depression or incontinence and which acts by blocking the effect of a substance chemical in the body called acetylcholine, she says.

Lgood gestures to adopt

According to Dr. Moussayer, the elderly feel thirst less well when their body needs it. They must therefore drink very regularly, she recommends, approximately every 20 minutes, in order to reach between 1.5 l and 2 l per day, except for people with heart problems who must not exceed 1.5 l to avoid not risk cardiac decompensation. She also recommends vulnerable people to avoid drinking or eating too cold, because the feeling of thirst subsides faster while sweating is accelerated.

You can diversify the intake with tea, soups, compotes, sorbets, fruit juices or fruits rich in water (watermelon and melon), vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.). It is also advisable to wet the skin with a damp cloth.

For seniors, the specialist also advises avoiding sugary drinks and coffee, because of their diuretic action, as well as alcohol. Another good habit is to favor light meals, in sufficient quantity, in particular by absorbing foods rich in water.

The dehydration

How to know if you are dehydrated. Dr. Moussayer suggests a few signs that should alert you to dry lips, onset weight loss, unusual behavior, muscle weakness and difficulty moving, cramps, migraines, dizziness or seizures, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, nocturnal agitation, insomnia or body temperature exceeding 38.5°C.

If the dehydration is mild or the weight loss is less than 5% of body weight, the specialist recommends practicing a few simple and effective actions. » It is advisable to lie the person down, undress them, cool them down and compensate for their water and mineral salt losses by giving them more than usual to drink, in particular drinks containing sugar and salt, vegetable broths or others“, she advises.

On the other hand, if the dehydration seems more serious (a weight loss greater than 5% of the total weight of the person already indicates a serious condition and, beyond 10%, the vital organs are endangered) and that the one of the signs listed above is observed, Dr. Moussayer recommends that the person be cared for at home or in the hospital, with in particular an infusion to compensate for the loss of water and mineral salts.

Another vital emergency, she continues, is heat stroke, which results in dry red skin contrasting with moist mucous membranes, a temperature equal to or greater than 40°C, neurological disorders and muscle contractures. It requires, according to the specialist, the implementation of intensive medical resuscitation associated with humidification of the skin with fresh water associated with ventilation promoting its evaporation.

Things to do or avoid

According to Dr. Khadija Moussayer, the elderly should favor light and loose clothing and spend at least a few hours a day in a cool place, in particular by closing the shutters and windows during the day, to air them only late at night or early in the morning, noting that one should not hesitate to rest during the hottest hours and that all excessive physical activity is to be avoided as well as any outing at the hottest hours.

Refreshing yourself regularly is also very useful, recommends the specialist, by taking regular showers or cool baths without drying yourself immediately or by using a sprayer or a water mist, on the face and neck using gloves or towels. wet toiletries (possibly stored in the fridge) or even pockets of ice cubes on the face, neck, under the arms, forearms, legs, etc.

The benefits and risks of air conditioning?

Air conditioning can be beneficial without abusing it, believes Dr. Moussayer, and therefore by respecting certain rules, namely not to exceed a temperature difference with the outside of 5°C to avoid any thermal shock (including in a car), avoid sleeping with the air conditioning on or regularly maintain the filter system to combat the infiltration of infectious agents and allergens.

Ultimately, the specialist advises placing the air conditioning away from where the elderly person is installed, as it is likely to cause certain disorders such as torticollis, headaches, sore throats, runny nose, headaches, dryness eyes and muscle cramps without forgetting, she specifies, that an air conditioner tends to dry out the ambient air of an interior and therefore leads to an additional risk of dehydration.

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