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Seniors and Heat Stroke/Exhaustion

Seniors and Heat Stroke/Exhaustion

While everyone might be put off by hot temperatures, it is seniors who are most at risk for heat-related health issues. A study by the University of Chicago Medical Center found that 40 percent of heat-related deaths in the US were in people 65 or older. There are several different reasons for this, including a decreased ability to notice changes in body temperature. Seniors can be slow to react to changes in heat, meaning that they don’t start the sweating and cooling down process until their internal temperature has already increased. Additionally, sweat glands may be less efficient with age, slowing down the release of heat from the body. Other factors that contribute to a senior’s vulnerability to heat include obesity, many different health problems, and even certain medications.

Therefore, it is extremely important to watch for signs of heat stroke and exhaustion in older adults.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke occurs when is unable to control its body temperature, causing it to rise rapidly. The body is then unable to sweat and cool itself down. Body temperatures can reach up to 106 degrees in as little as 10 minutes! If not treated, death or permanent disability are real threats. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Paleness
  • Cool, moist skin

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is not as severe as heat stroke, but is still a serious problem. It occurs over a period of several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate hydration. If not treated, it can lead to heat stroke. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dark urine
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Tiredness

How to prevent heat problems

Lucky, there are many ways to help prevent heat stroke and exhaustion in older adults. they include:

  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages to keep you hydrated (water is best)
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Take a cool shower or bath to lower your temperature
  • Stay in an air-conditioned environment
  • Wear lightweight clothing that allows your skin to breathe
  • Remain indoors during the hottest part of the day
  • Avoid engaging in strenuous activities outside
  • Stay in shade if you must go outside

If you see someone you think is suffering from heat stroke or exhaustion, the first thing you should do is get them out of the heat. Try and cool them down as fast as possible by immersing them in a tub of cool water or spraying them with a hose. Call for medical assistance as soon as you can, as they will need to be checked out and re-hydrated quickly.

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