Stay safe over the summer break
Published at: 03 Jan 2020
GV Health Clinical Supervisor, Emergency Department, Dr Carolyn Kamenjarin said the health service did see an increase in heat-related illnesses over the summer.
“We see an increase in the incidents of heat-related illness, especially in the elderly,” she said.
“They may present with dehydration; feeling unwell and sometimes they’re unsteady.”
Dr Kamenjarin said it was vital people maintained their hydration during the warmer months by drinking an adequate amount of fluids.
“They should try and stay out of the heat in the hottest parts of the day; they should avoid, when it’s very hot, extreme exercise and if they’re on medications they should make sure they take them appropriately.”
Dr Kamenjarin recommended avoiding alcohol and other drugs, as they were also dehydrating and could make things worse for those exposed to the heat.
“The other things they should avoid is doing work outside which makes it harder in the heat but can also increase their level of dehydration.”
Staying inside was another recommendation to avoid heat-related illness, but for those without air-conditioning, Dr Kamenjarin suggested visiting your local shopping centre or library where it would be cool.
She also said those who were unwell with other illnesses during the heat would be at a higher risk of heat-related illnesses.
Dr Kamenjarin said the signs of dehydration included thirst, but often people would not drink enough fluids to rehydrate.
“They also may feel tired, dizzy, they may have cramps and feel generally unwell.”
Consuming fluids with sugar was a good way for people to rehydrate, with Dr Kamenjarin suggesting things such as electrolytes, weak cordial or icy-poles.
It is also a time when the Emergency Department experiences an increase in trauma, with the heat considered a risk factor for injury.
“If they’re doing things in the heat it can affect their judgment,” Dr Kamenjarin said.
“Also, from an accident perspective, if you’re planning to drive, play any sports or engage in water sports, don’t mix those things with alcohol or drugs because obviously that can increase your risk of accidents significantly, especially when combined with the heat.”
Dr Kamenjarin said dehydration had the potential to develop into more serious problems such as heat exhaustion and, the most severe, heatstroke.
“People who are at risk of that are the elderly, people on medications like blood pressure or heart medications, and alsothe very young.
“Children under five are at risk of getting problems related to the heat.
“So be very wary of kids and elderly people.”
Dr Kamenjarin said those who were isolated and lived alone were also particularly at risk.
“It’s a good idea to keep an eye on people you know that don’t have anybody to look out for them.”