It’s feelin’ hot, hot, hot! When it comes to the elderly, there are plenty of natural threats to be aware of. In the hot summer months, a huge condition to be aware of are heat induced illnesses. The sun and it’s heat does not care how old you are, but certainly our senior citizens are more susceptible to heat related illnesses, such as heat strokes.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness facing our seniors in the summer months. A heat stroke occurs when a person’s body becomes unable to control its own temperature.

Here’s what happens: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Before we go any further, you should always be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heat stroke, so here they are:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Heat Exhaustion

While we’re at it, let’s talk about heat exhaustion- another heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids, although it is milder than a heat stroke.

Here are the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness/ Weakness
  • Dizziness/ Fainting
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Skin: may be cool and moist
  • Pulse rate: fast and weak
  • Breathing: fast and shallow

What Seniors Can Do to Protect Themselves

  • If you are caring for a senior citizen or anyone that cannot fully care for themselves, you should make sure to follow these prevention tips to protect them from heat-related stress:
  • Plenty of rest.
  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages- talk to a doctor if the senior is on any kind of water/ liquid guidelines
  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
  • If possible, seek an air-conditioned environment. (If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping mall or public library to cool off.)
  • Wear lightweight clothing- layers for convenience.
  • If possible, remain indoors during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Do not engage in strenuous activities- do exercise in the morning!

What You Can Do to Help Protect Elderly Relatives and Neighbors

  • If you have elderly relatives or neighbors, you can help them protect themselves from heat-related stress:
  • Visit older adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Encourage them to increase their fluid intake by drinking cool, nonalcoholic beverages regardless of their activity level.
    Warning: If their doctor generally limits the amount of fluid they drink or they are on water pills, they will need to ask their doctor how much they should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Take them to air-conditioned locations if they have transportation problems.

What You Can Do for Someone With Heat Stress
If you see any signs of severe heat stress, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the affected person.

Do the following:

1. Get the person to a shady area.
2. Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
3. Cool the person rapidly, however you can. For example, immerse the person in a tub of cool water; spray the person with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the person in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
4. Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101°–102°F
5. If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.

Heat-related illnesses can sneak up on even the healthiest people if they aren’t ready for it. Prepare yourself and the ones you look after with the above tips. One thing about Williams Loving Care caregivers is that we stay up to date on providing medical assistance as necessary, but we also understand the signs and symptoms that are above our skillset and will call 911 when necessary.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention