Summer is here, and we’re all looking forward to fun in the sun and spending time with our families – but as we get older, the heat can start to affect us more than it used to.

As we age, our bodies hold less water and our thirst mechanism and kidneys may start working less well – even without being on medication that can affect our heat sensitivity.

Dehydration is a real risk, and warning signs can include dark urine, light-headedness (especially when we stand up), dry mouth, and increased heart rate and breathing.

Fortunately, it’s simple to counteract dehydration, says Sydney North Health Network GP Dr Penny Burns: just get enough to eat and drink.

“It’s more about regularity of fluid intake over the day. Regular intake of drinks and foods helps keep fluid levels up and counteract any potential dehydration,” she says.

Any non-alcoholic liquid will do, whether it’s water, tea, coffee, sports drinks or clear broth – just drink a little more than you otherwise would; additionally, eat more foods with a high fluid content, such as fruits and veg.

Safe summer fun

There are plenty of activities you can do that will still keep you cool.

A trip to the pool or the beach is a classic one (though make sure you stay sun safe, bring plenty to drink, and keep to the shade during the hottest parts of the day), but even going to the movies or air-conditioned shopping centres, libraries, cafés, museums, art galleries, clubs and the like can be a great way to get out and stay social without risking dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Other tips to stay cool, especially at home, include:

  • Try not to use your oven and stove too much.

  • If there is smoke about, keep windows and doors closed. If there is no smoke about, once the heat of the day has passed, open windows and doors to allow cool air to cool down the house.

  • Hot weather can be tiring, so rest more and avoid over-exertion – you may not be able to do as much as you usually can when the weather is cooler. You should be cautious about doing activities, especially during the hotter parts of the day.

  • Remember there can also be a risk of over-drinking, which can cause lethargy and confusion as well.