Dangers of Heat Stroke for Seniors
Hot weather can be dangerous for anyone, but seniors are more likely to be affected by heat than other adults. In fact, a recent study found that of all the heat-related fatalities in the United States, 40% were among people over the age of 65.
There are many reasons why elderly are more vulnerable to excessive heat:
— Salt-restricted diets: salt actually helps the body retain water
— Lack of airflow or access to air-conditioning
— Medications: many will actually increase the risk of dehydration and reduce sweating
— Overdressing: how many times have you seen your mother with layers of clothes on?
— Living in significantly warmer climates (relocation from northern states)
— The ability to notice body temperature fluctuations decreases with age — making seniors less likely to seek refuge from heat
— Underlying health conditions that make seniors less able to adapt to heat
Some common sense, and simple precautions, will enable seniors to enjoy warm weather safely.
1. Avoid outdoor exercise. In extreme heat, avoid outdoor exercise and strenuous activity. Better a low-intensity workout or hit the weights in an air-conditioned gym.
2. Take a siesta: avoid the hottest parts of the day. When the temperatures spike, make your way inside.
3. Be aware of the heat index, which takes humidity into account and approximates how hot the weather really feels. When the heat index is high and there’s a lot of moisture in the air, the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating is impaired.
4. Drink liquids. Drinking water, even if you are not thirsty, can help avoid dehydration. (Avoid alcohol and caffeine which can cause further dehydration.)
5. Know the warning signs of heat-related illness. Breathing problems, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, headache, nausea and rapid heartbeat are all warning signs of heat-related illness and medical attention should be sought immediately.
6. Seek an air-conditioned environment. Find a cool place to spend the hottest parts of the day. Head to the mall, the public library or the local senior center to stay safe from extreme temperatures. In cases of extreme heat, many cities will set up air-conditioned shelters for seniors.
7. Wear appropriate clothing. When the weather is warm, dress accordingly and wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes. Add in a wide-brimmed hat for good measure.
John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164