As record temps scorch portions of the country, experts are warning about the dire consequences of extreme heat. High heat poses risks for everyone, but many are unaware of the significant risks soaring thermometers have on the elderly – who do not adjust as well as young people to extreme weather changes.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), older adults are at special risk for heat related illnesses such as hyperthermia – caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. Signs of heat stroke include a significant increase in body temperature (generally above 103 degrees Fahrenheit), changes in mental status (like confusion or combativeness), strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, red/dry flushed skin, feeling faint, throbbing headache, nausea, staggering or coma. Seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with heat stroke symptoms, especially an older adult. Read More.
If you believe someone is suffering from a heat-related illness, take immediate action:
- Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned or other cool place. Urge them to lie down.
- If you suspect heat stroke, call 911.
- Encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water if it is safe to do so.
- Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits, and/or groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin, and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
- If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Tips to help seniors avoid the hazards of hot weather include: Read More.
Stay hydrated. Seniors lose the ability to conserve water as they age — and are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, especially if you go out. Health specialists advise that you drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day.
Limit Caffeine/Alcohol. Both are diuretics and can cause your body to lose water.
Take Refuge. Older people, particularly those with chronic medical conditions, should stay indoors in cooler spaces on hot and humid days. People without air conditioners should go to places that do have air conditioning, such as senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters and libraries. Cooling centers are another option.
Keep Your Home Cool: If you don’t have AC, invest in some high-powered fans and keep your windows open.
Dress Wisely. Dress appropriately – in loose fitting, light colored clothing — for summer. Looser, lightweight garb helps your body keep cool by allowing hot air to escape. Lighter colors can help deflect sun’s rays and will help you keep cool when the sun is at its peak. Don’t forget a hat to protect your face, and wear UVA/UVB certified sunglasses.
Plan your outings. Avoid outdoor activity when the sun is at its peak, between 10 am and 4 pm. If possible, remain indoors during the hottest parts of day.
For more information on heat and aging, visit //www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2016/07/advice-older-people-staying-safe-hot-weather