OTTAWA -- A researcher at the University of Ottawa says there is a "gradual deterioration" in how we handle the heat and humidity as we get older, and residents in long-term care homes are especially vulnerable during the heat wave.

It is day four of the heat wave for Ottawa and eastern Ontario, with the temperature hitting 32C on Sunday.

Speaking on CTV News at Six, University of Ottawa professor of physiology Dr. Glen Kenny said that with residents facing restrictions in long-term care homes for weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are very vulnerable to the heat wave.

"The major thing is the isolation that we see with the elderly. In this period of time where we're trying to protect the most vulnerable, we are experiencing those hot conditions and there are certain individuals who may be facing warm conditions," said Dr. Kenny.

"For them in isolation, we may not be able to protect them as well as we'd like to."

Dr. Kenny notes that as we get older, your body does not respond to the hot and humid weather the same way.

"What you have to remember is the most vulnerable don't respond to heat the same way. Even at moderate temperature they will begin to store heat," said Dr. Kenny, noting that as we age there is a deterioration in our ability to lose heat.

"In terms of behaviour, they don't necessarily, perhaps, take off the layers of clothing we're used to taking off so they're at certainly a greater risk."

Dr. Kenny recommends family and loved ones keep in contact with family members in long-term care homes during the heat warning to make sure they are okay.

"What's important here is we that have contact with the most vulnerable. If it's your elderly mother, your elderly grandparent, there should be regular contact with them to make sure they're doing okay."

Visitations have resumed at long-term care homes and retirement homes where there are no COVID-19 cases.  

Watch the humidity

Dr. Kenny says as we age, there is a "gradual deterioration" in how we can lose heat and handle the hot and humid weather, even for people in their 40s.

"What we have to remember is that when we are exposed and we're doing physical work, we do have to plan accordingly and reduce that level of effort to accommodate the hotter weather that we're facing," said Dr. Kenny on Sunday about trying to stay active while staying cool.

Studies show that older people sweat less. Dr. Kenny recommends people of all ages watch the humidity.

"While the body can certainly heat, one of the big factors that could essentially limit ones ability to lose heat is the humidity," said Dr. Kenny.

"As we sweat, if the sweat doesn’t evaporate it doesn't provide any cooling. So that's a key thing to remember."