Caring for relatives in the heat: what should I consider?

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Written By Kampretz Bianca

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Hot days are particularly stressful for the elderly and people needing care, but also for children.

The essentials in summary:

  • Hot periods mean great stress for the body and health.
  • In general, a lot can be prepared in advance.
  • Stay informed about impending heat or the progress of a heat wave, e.g. Heat alert system of the German Meteorological Office.
  • Use the tips and suggestions to help you and your loved ones get through the hot season well.

Detect heat periods early

Find out in good time

Reliable information about a current or future heat period can be found at German Weather Service heat warning system (DWD). DWD issues heat warnings for particularly hot days. Additionally, you can see how heat stress will develop in the heat trend for another 5 days or in the district overview specifically for your place of residence.

Which people are particularly affected by heat?

For people aged 65 and over: With increasing age, body temperature regulation becomes slower, metabolism changes and the sensation of thirst decreases. This can cause the body to overheat or even dry out more quickly.

Applies to babies and young children: You have a higher metabolism and produce less sweat. They also need more time to adapt to the hot period.

Applies to people with acute or chronic illnesses: Diseases can affect the ability to regulate body temperature. Heat can make certain symptoms worse or affect how medications work.

This applies to people with addictions: The condition may result in reduced thirst or heat-related symptoms that are not taken seriously.

This applies to people who perform heavy physical labor or work outdoors.: A period of heat makes physical work more strenuous, concentration decreases more quickly and the body becomes exhausted more quickly.

The following applies to homeless people: You can hardly protect yourself from the heat.

The following applies to people in urban spaces: More heat is stored in cities, which is why they are more polluted.

What can you do before a hot spell?

There are some things you can do or prepare in advance, for example:

What can you do during a hot spell?

Even during a hot spell, there are some things you can do to better deal with the heat.

Keep the apartment as cool as possible

  • Ventilate early in the morning, afternoon and evening while it is still cool.
  • Dark rooms help prevent heat penetration during the day.
  • Ventilate during the day only if absolutely necessary, that is, if it is necessary to remove odors or pollutants.
  • To keep the house cool, it can help to humidify the air in the room, for example, with a humidifier or by hanging wet towels.

Protect the body from overheating

  • Moist compresses on the arms, legs or neck, as well as cooling water sprays or cooling massages can do you good in the heat.
  • Cold foot and hand baths refresh and stimulate circulation.
  • Especially bedridden people cannot avoid the heat. They should be provided with fine bedding and light clothing. If possible, you should not wear incontinence pants, but rather mesh pants with inserts to prevent heat build-up.

Drink a lot with a healthy variety

  • Respect Make sure you consume regular fluids even more than usual.
  • Fruit juice spritzers, unsweetened fruit, or herbal teas offer a healthy change from water. Everything likes to be cold, but not freezing. Tap water can be flavored with fruits, vegetables and/or herbs – without sugar. Find more flavored water recipes here. Foods that contain water, such as cucumber or watermelon, can also make a (small) contribution.
  • It is recommended to drink a few sips every quarter of an hour or a glass every two hours – preferably together.
  • However, alcohol and very sugary drinks are not advisable.
  • If you have heart or kidney disease, the amount you need to drink should be discussed with your doctor.
  • Here’s more information about drinking in the heat

Eating light is good for the body

  • In hot weather, people who need care should eat small, light meals several times a day.
  • Salads, steamed vegetables and water-rich raw foods such as tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as lean meats and fish, are suitable.
  • Finely chopped fruits such as watermelon, melon, grapes or peaches are ideal for afternoon coffee.
  • Salty crackers stimulate the sensation of thirst and support salt balance.

Be careful with medications

Some medications can cause problems in hot weather. Anyone who takes certain medications regularly should consult their doctor’s office to see if the medication needs to be heat adjusted, for example, in the dosage of antihypertensive and diuretic medications. Medicines also need to be stored in a special way (e.g. in a cool, dry place, in the refrigerator or not above a set temperature).

Use cooler hours outdoors

  • In hot weather, people who need care should stay at home if possible.
  • The slightly cooler morning and evening hours can be used for short walks, preferably with light head coverings.
  • Shaded parks, forests and seaside spaces offer natural sun protection and milder temperatures.
  • It is still important to protect your skin with sunscreen.
  • Instant cold packs are useful anywhere.
  • Medical appointments should be scheduled for the coolest times of the day. In case of emergency you can request a home visit.

Pay attention to warning signs

If you notice signs of overheating or dehydration, you must act quickly! Sudden symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, rapid pulse, headache, restlessness or confusion can indicate that the body is entering a deficiency situation. People needing care should be immediately escorted to airy rooms, given drinks and kept calm. If symptoms persist, seek medical advice or, if necessary, call 112.

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