HMC cautions special care required for the elderly and outdoor workers during the hot Sseason

Press release
Published August 3rd, 2016 - 05:04 GMT
Hamad Medical Corporation
Hamad Medical Corporation

Qatar’s summers are characterized by extreme heat and humidity. A geriatric and emergency medicine expert at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is cautioning that elderly people are at a higher risk of developing heat-related illnesses and need special care and attention during the hot summer months.

“We urge the public to check frequently on elderly family members, friends or neighbors to make sure they are safe, especially those who are living alone or have chronic medical conditions, mental illness, or difficulty caring for themselves”, said Dr. Hanadi Al Hamad, Acting Chair of Elderly Geriatrics at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).  

Dr. Al Hamad advised that elderly people may have diminished sensations, especially those who have dementia or diabetes, and may not even be aware they are thirsty or too hot. She explained that even otherwise healthy people can struggle with hot weather because of the physical changes that people undergo as they age.

People of advanced age, especially those aged 65 and above, can rapidly develop serious and life-threatening conditions such as heat exhaustion or stroke. They are also at risk for developing complications to already existing medical conditions. Some medications also increase the risk of heat-related illness, such as diuretics, which encourage fluid loss. This can quickly lead to dehydration during hot weather. Beta blockers (usually used in the treatment of heart conditions), anti-depressants, antihistamines and sedatives can also dull an elderly person’s awareness of discomfort. 

“As a precaution, elderly people should review their medications with their doctor to determine whether their prescribed medications put them at increased risk of heat-related illness. Their doctor can help safeguard their health during the intense summer season,” Dr. Al Hamad explained.

The elderly are also advised to avoid strenuous activity and cautioned to remain indoors, in a cool and well-ventilated environment, between 10am and 4pm daily when the temperature is at its peak. Furthermore, they are encouraged to stay hydrated and should opt for lighter meals to avoid increasing their body temperature. In addition, it is recommended that the elderly avoid consuming alcohol and caffeinated drinks, including tea, coffee and soft drinks, which can contribute to dehydration. Those with kidney problems should consult their doctors regarding recommended fluid intake.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion can develop both rapidly and slowly. Symptoms can progress over a period of days, so it is important to pay close attention to the well-being of elderly loved ones. Signs of heat exhaustion include hot and dry skin, dizziness, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, breathing problems, rash, cramps, and brown or dark yellow urine, which also suggest dehydration.

If the elderly person is experiencing any of these symptoms, Dr. Al Hamad said it is important to help them promptly cool down. She suggests using a wet washcloth or fan, and getting the individual into a cool shower. If medical treatment is required, take the person to their primary healthcare doctor, or the nearest emergency room, for further evaluation.

HMC’s Chief Consultant of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Warda Al Saad, further cautioned all residents, particularly those who work outdoors, to take precautions and safeguard themselves against heat related illnesses. “To avoid heat-related illnesses, outdoor workers should increase their water and fluid consumption. They should be drinking before they get thirsty. They should avoid drinking caffeinated beverages as this will help prevent dehydration. Avoiding direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm is also recommended, as this is the hottest period of the day. It is between these hours that we see most cases at the Emergency Department,” Dr Al Saad said.

Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which is a life-threating condition. It is vital to seek urgent professional medical assistance if you, or someone around you, is experiencing signs of heat illnesses. Call 999 for HMC’s Ambulance Service for further evaluation and care or go directly to your primary healthcare doctor, or the nearest emergency room.

Background Information

Hamad Medical Corporation

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is the main provider of secondary and tertiary healthcare in Qatar and one of the leading hospital providers in the Middle East.

For more than four decades, HMC has been dedicated to delivering the safest, most effective and compassionate care to all its patients.

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