Avoid Heatstroke This Summer

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Summers can get scorching and dehydrating, leading to several health problems. Here’s a simple guide on how senior citizens can avoid heatstroke this summer.

Summer has barely started officially and parts of the country are already in the grip of severe heat. The mercury is soaring beyond 40°C in parts of South and Western India. Bangalore, known for its pleasant weather is witnessing dry hot days and cooler nights. The unpredictable climate and changing seasons need precautions, especially for senior citizens who may be at risk of developing Heat stroke. Here are few tips to avoid heat stroke in senior citizens and maintain good health.

Changes associated with the change in climate

*Fluid Losses via sweat: Our body cools itself by sweating; each litre of sweat dissipates almost 600 kilocalories (kcals) of heat, preventing a rise in the body temperatures of almost 10 degree C.

*Hyperthermia: In hot, humid weather, there is a risk of Hyperthermia or elevated body temperatures as the sweat doesn’t evaporate due to the moisture laden air and therefore little cooling takes place, despite excessive sweating. In such conditions, senior citizens must take precautions to prevent heat stroke.


Stay hydrated this summer.
Photograph courtesy: Anamika Sharma

Ways to reduce the risk of Heat Stroke

* Drink enough water before, during and after any activity.

* Rest in shade whenever tired.

* Wear lightweight clothing allowing evaporation.

Heat Stroke Symptoms to Watch Out For

* Headache

* Nausea

* Stumbling or Excess or insufficient sweating.

* Confusion or other mental changes.


How to Manage Heat Stroke

* Take sips of water.

* Stop working.

* Seek a shade and ask for help.

To prevent Hyperthermia, even on cooler nights too the body needs enough fluid. There is also the need to keep the body warm. In order to do that, avoid movement from extreme temperature zones. It is also advisable to avoid too much table salt as that may worsen dehydration.

Go for salads and fruits to stay healthy. Photograph courtesy: Anamika Sharma/https://www.facebook.com/Madcookingfusions-179713382091425/timeline

Go for salads and fruits to stay healthy.
Photograph courtesy: Anamika Sharma

Maintaining Good Health in Summer

Our body needs to maintain enough fluid and salts. Sweat and urine losses lead to loss in these salts –e.g., Sodium (Na), Potassium (K) and Chloride (Cl) (also called electrolytes). Losses if not replaced can lead to muscle cramps, drowsiness, weakness and feeling of tiredness. Older people tend to be prone to dehydration, leading to abnormal electrolyte levels. Therefore the following dietary and health precautions must be taken by senior citizens to maintain good health in summer:

* Drink more water: Fluid is 55-60% of body weight. Depending on the climate, dietetic habits, activity and body build, normal urine output is between 1200-1500 ml, so fluid intake should be approximate 8-10 glasses i.e., 2400-3000 ml.

* Avoid heavy foods: Go for watery foods. Good options are juices, water, soups, limewater, coconut water, buttermilk, milk shakes and fresh lime soda. Salads that include cucumber, tomatoes and fruits like melon; sweet lime and oranges are great options too.

* Maintain a balanced diet: Adequate calories are required in a balanced diet with optimum vitamins and minerals to maintain a good health and fight disease. Emphasise on the quantity, composition and quality of food and avoid fasting and feasting. Avoid eating out if possible, eat small frequent meals and do not skip breakfast.

* Avoid late and heavy dinner: The time of eating is very important. Food eaten earlier in the day generates more energy than food eaten later in the day. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is highest in the morning, so it burns off the calories. Contrastingly, some calories when eaten at night get deposited as fat. People with weight gain problems should ideally eat before 6-7 pm.

What to avoid this summer

Avoid caffeine if you can. Photograph: Silver Talkies

Avoid caffeine if you can.
Photograph: Silver Talkies

* Alcohol, caffeine, (It’s a diuretic, i.e., causes increased passing of urine and induces fluid loss), tea, soft drinks with or without caffeine are also a bad choice as it makes one feel full quickly. Limited intake is advisable, with two drinks per day, four to five times a week for a man and one drink/day for a woman. One drink is equivalent to 30 ml whisky/Gin/Vodka or 120 ml of wine or 250 ml of Beer.

* Avoid excessive stress by doing some meditation and breathing exercises once a day and avoid heat exposure.

* Skipping meals is avoidable as it induces acidity and can precipitate gastritis.

* Smoking and tobacco use is avoidable.

Finally, nutrient requirements vary with weight, height, age, sex and metabolic rate and with the type, frequency, intensity and duration of activity. Because the emotional and physical stress and competition, combined with travel and other activities, affects dietary intake, adequate caloric and essential nutrient intake must be planned carefully to meet the requirements, especially for senior citizens.

* Some food photographs courtesy Anamika Sharma, a food photographer. You can see her work at Madcookingfusions.

About Author

Dr. Priyanka Rohatgi

Dr. Priyanka Rohatgi (M.Sc, PhD, ADND, PGCCGM, XLRI) is Chief Clinical Dietician, HOD, Dept. of Nutrition and Dietetics, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore. She is also President, Indian Dietetic Association ,Bangalore Chapter (2011-14) and member, National Executive Committee, Indian Dietetic Association.