Heat Awareness for Elderly
The summer season is upon us. But the heat and humidity, welcomed by many beach goers and families, can be a difficult time for the elderly, particularly those with chronic illnesses and/or those who take certain medications. The biggest dangers are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Here are some common sense tips to consider for older adults:
- Drinks lots of cool water even when you’re not thirsty. This seems so simple, and yet we all seem to ignore the fact that our bodies need more water. You can dilute water with a 50/50 mix of
natural fruit juices if you desire a change. Avoid alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, sports and energy
¬drinks, coffee, cola, and caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration.
- Stay out of the blazing sun or heat whenever possible. If you must go outside, stay in the shade as much as possible and try to go out early in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler.
- Wear a hat and loose fitting, comfortable clothes with materials like cotton, linen, and silk. Avoid synthetic fabrics as they retain heat and may make you more uncomfortable.
- Take advantage of air conditioning or cooler places like shopping malls, libraries, movie theaters, etc.
If you don’t have air conditioning, keep shades or drapes down and blinds closed on the sunny side of the house, but keep windows slightly open to allow for ventilation.
- Keep electric lights off or turned down low, and turn off all unnecessary electrical appliances, such as computers and TV’s which generate a lot of heat.
- Avoid heavy meals and using your oven.
- Use a fan in the house near the window to bring in the cooler air from the outside. Don’t use a fan in a closed room without windows or doors open to the outside.
Seniors should be aware that certain medications make it harder for the body to control its temperature and/or may make it easier for your skin to burn. This includes both common prescriptions and over the counter drugs. Consult your doctor or pharmacist regarding side effects of your medications.
Various signs of elderly heat-related illnesses include rapid breathing, weakness or fainting, headache, confusion, and feeling more tired than usual. You can help an aging parent or older adult who demonstrates these symptoms by cooling them down with lukewarm water, giving them cool (not ice cold) water to drink, moving them to a cooler location, removing excess clothing and spraying them with a fine mist of water and then allowing a fan to blow air over them. This will speed evaporation from the skin, causing their temperature to lower and stabilizing them until further help arrives.