Elderly at risk from rising mercury

3 Feb 2016

People over the age of 75 are especially at risk from hot weather, particularly if they have recently had an infection.

That is the warning from University of Queensland School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work Director of Teaching and Learning Associate Professor Christine Brown Wilson.

“Older people generally, but especially older women and those over 75, are at risk during periods of excessive heat,” Dr Brown Wilson said.

“Care-givers should ensure older people have access to cool drinks within their reach and encourage them to eat light snacks with fruit and vegetables that contain water.

“Another good idea is to encourage older people to put a damp loose cotton cloth or scarf on the back of their neck, and spray or splash their face with cold water frequently.

“They should be checked on daily during excessively hot weather.”

Brisbane hit 38 degrees on Tuesday, with an apparent temperature of 40 degrees once air moisture was taken into consideration. The mercury reportedly soared to 43.3 degrees in Birdsville. Rain is expected in Brisbane on Wednesday and Thursday, but the temperature will still be above 30 degrees.

“It’s important to be aware of the danger symptoms that older people may display,” Dr Brown Wilson said.

“These include confusion, feeling faint and/or dizzy, being short of breath or vomiting.

“Heat stroke can kill, and knowing what to do in an emergency situation is critical.”

Dr Brown Wilson recommended the following hot weather advice from Queensland Health:

  • Drink regularly even if you do not feel thirsty. Water or fruit juice are best. Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks
  • Eat light meals with a higher proportion of vegetables. Try to eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit, which contain water.
  • Keep windows closed when the room is cooler than outside. Open windows at night when the temperature outside has dropped.
  • Reduce heat from sunlight coming through the windows.
  • Have cool showers or baths.
  • Use fans and air-conditioners at home to keep cool, or spend time in an air-conditioned library, community centre, shopping centre or cinema.

Media: Robert Burgin, UQ Communications, r.burgin@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 3035, +61 448 410 364.