Date
17 October 2018
Senior citizens can join the fun as long as they are aware of their body condition and take cautious measures before and after going into the hot water. Photo: Xinhua
Senior citizens can join the fun as long as they are aware of their body condition and take cautious measures before and after going into the hot water. Photo: Xinhua

Are hot springs suitable for the elderly?

Japan and South Korea are two popular countries to visit during winter time for their hot springs and hanjeungmak (traditional Korean sauna). However, many people might be worried about whether it is safe for senior citizens to soak in hot water.

In fact, they can share the same fun as long as they are aware of their body condition and take cautious measures before and after going into the hot water. It is necessary to evaluate one’s physical condition before enjoying hot spring or hanjeungmak.

Patients with chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes should seek professional advice from doctors and see whether it is necessary to make prescription adjustments. Those who are not sure about their health condition should receive a body check before departure.

When the body is soaked in hot water, the blood vessels dilate and the blood pressure decreases. The heart then pumps blood to other parts of the body at a higher rate which increases its workload.

Chest pain or dyspnea can be signs of relapse of coronary heart disease, in which case the patient should immediately come out of the hot water. Experience of dizziness or blurry vision may be due to low blood pressure. One should receive a medical check-up afterwards.

Some illnesses like atrial fibrillation, also known as abnormal heart rhythm, may not show obvious symptoms. Patients may experience heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, increased heart rate, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain or difficulty in breathing. Since the insignificant symptoms may show up sporadically, they are often overlooked.

Irregular heartbeats hinder the heart chambers to pump sufficient blood out of the heart. Blood that stays in the blood vessels will eventually form blood clots. If a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain, it will cause a stroke.

Research studies show that atrial fibrillation patients are five times more at risk of experiencing a stroke than general people. That said, it is highly recommended to visit the doctor when any of the aforementioned symptoms are shown.

Do not go into a hot spring after a heavy meal or drinking. Limit the time in hot water to 15 minutes. The elderly should refrain from soaking in iced water after coming out of a hot spring, as a sudden decrease in blood pressure can lead to shock or heart disease.

Always come out of the hot water slowly and cover the body with a towel to avoid getting cold. Replenish the body with fluid afterwards. Shower with lukewarm water and apply moisturizer to protect the skin.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 7

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/BN/CG

Specialist in geriatric medicine

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