On 25 Feb, 2023, Seniors Today hosted their weekly Health Live Webinar with Dr Raj Kumar, a senior Internal Medicine specialist who spoke on and answered questions about health risks and care during summer and how we can brace ourselves for the summer season.
About Dr Raj Kumar
Dr Raj Kumar is a senior Internal Medicine specialist and a consultant at the Indian Spinal Injury Centre, New Delhi. He has also worked with the Fortis Hospital, until recently.
For the elderly, the summer season is slightly more harmful than the winter weather. This is because the elderly are at a higher risk of suffering from heat stroke, dehydration. However, in the winters too, the seniors run a risk of contracting respiratory illnesses more easily.
In the summer, our primary concern is to protect the elderly and senior citizens from the harmful effects of heat and other heat related illnesses.
We do believe that the air pollution is more during the winters, however, the pollution is slightly more/ the situation slightly worse because during the summers, the air is more stagnant due to the heat and the humidity. This leads to the sunlight (UV rays emitted by it, thereby) reacting with the pollutants and emissions of the vehicles, factories, etc. and this creates an ozone layer. The higher concentration of ozone in the air during the summers makes the summers slightly more harmful and the air pollution slightly worse than what it is during the winters.
Therefore, even though the AQI is lower during the winters, the air pollution is higher during the summers- attributed to the higher concentration of ozone.
The seniors are more prone to dehydration. This is because as the age progresses, the water content of the body drops compared to the adult population and the skin- being the largest organ of the body- cannot adjust to the rise in the temperature and consequent water requirement and loss.
Chronic systemic diseases also contribute to water retention power and water content in the body, making them prone to dehydration.
The senior population is more prone to heat related illness, primarily due to dehydration leading to heat related cramps, heat stroke, etc.
Symptoms of heat related illnesses include:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Giddiness, dizziness
- Decreased urine output
- Concentrated urine
In such cases, the patients/ seniors are advised to have plenty of oral fluids throughout the day. They are advised to take at least 1.5-2 L of oral fluids/ day.
Consume fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, such as cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, etc.
Patients with chronic kidney diseases and heart ailments are advised to have less fluid intake, and so it is natural to have a concern as to whether such patients can consume large volumes of water/ fluids. The fluid requirement of the body increases during the summers, and the body does have a minimum requirement of fluids to keep it functioning, thus, in patients suffering from illness which require them to not overload on fluids, it is still advised to consume the minimum required amount of water required to sustain the body. It is also these individuals who run a bigger risk of dehydration. Take at least 8 glasses of water, which is approx 1-1.5 L of water is recommended.
They are also advised to avoid going outdoors, as much as possible. Stay indoors, in a well ventilated and thermoregulated room.
The body of the elderly is more prone to changes/ fluctuation in the ambient temperature.
If it is possible, avoid going out during peak heat hours- the midday. Restrict maximum outdoor activity to early morning and late evening hours.
If you are suffering from chronic comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus type-II, it is advised to keep your illness well within control, because uncontrolled chronic illnesses also contribute and accelerate and increase the risk of heat related illnesses.
Carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks, etc are not recommended, these can lead to adverse effects. Instead, you can take fruit juices and coconut water, etc.