Tips for Avoiding Elderly Heat Stroke & Exhaustion
Posted on: 2017 07 05 by Jamie Beaulieu
I think it's safe to say that summer has finally arrived here in Vermont and New Hampshire. Hot weather is dangerous, and seniors are particularly prone to its threat. Elderly heat stroke and heat exhaustion are a real problem. Please check on your older family, friends, and neighbors, especially if they do not have access to air conditioning. There are several reasons for elderly heat vulnerability. People's ability to notice changes in their body temperature decreases with age. Many seniors also have underlying health conditions that make them less able to adapt to heat. Furthermore, many medicines that seniors take can contribute to dehydration. Simple precautions are all that's needed to keep safe. Here are some guidelines for keeping safe in hot weather:
- Drink Plenty of Liquids: Dehydration is the root of many heat related health problems. Drink plenty of water or juice, even if you're not thirsty. But remember to avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, as they can actually contribute to dehydration.
- Wear Appropriate Clothes: When it's hot out, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Stay Indoors During Midday Hours: During periods of extreme heat, the best time to run errands or be outdoors is before 10 am or after 6 pm, when the temperature tends to be cooler.
- Take it Easy: Avoid exercise and strenuous activity, particularly outdoors, when it's very hot out.
- Watch the Heat Index: When there's a lot of moisture in their air (high humidity), the body's ability to cool itself through sweating is impaired. The heat index factors humidity and temperature to approximate how the how the weather really feels. The current heat index can be found on all popular weather websites, and is also usually announced on local TV and radio weather reports during periods of warm weather.
- Seek Air-conditioned Environments: Seniors whose houses aren't air-conditioned should consider finding an air-conditioned place to spend time during extreme heat. The mall, library or movie theater are all popular options. During heat waves, many cities also set up "cooling centers," air-conditioned public places, for seniors and other vulnerable populations. Seniors without convenient access to any air-conditioned place might consider a cool bath or shower.
- Know the Warning Signs of Heat-related Illness: Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and breathing problems are all warning signs that help should be sought immediately.
- In addition to heat stroke, heat can kill by worsening existing chronic health conditions. For example, for the many Vermonters over the age of 65 who have a chronic condition—such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes—temperatures over 87°F can put them at a higher risk of life-threatening illness. People who feel unwell or faint in hot weather are also vulnerable to serious or deadly falls. People with chronic conditions may not show typical signs of heat illness, but rather worsened symptoms of their condition. If you or someone you know has a potentially dangerous chronic condition and begins to feel sick during a hot day, pay very close attention. If you have concerns about a person's condition, dial 9-1-1 or get immediate medical attention.