Warm Weather Safety for Seniors
Hot weather and extreme temperatures can pose a threat for people of all ages. When a person’s body is unable to compensate for the heat and cool itself down properly, they experience heat-related illnesses. Summer sun and heat are particularly dangerous for the elderly, and those with chronic medical conditions are more at risk. Recent research indicates that nearly 40% of all heat-related deaths were among people over 65. Unfortunately, climate changes may increase these numbers even more in the upcoming years.
There are several reasons for a senior’s vulnerability to heat. The elderly have a particularly hard time adjusting to changes in temperature. A person’s ability to recognize changes in body temperature also decreases with age. A senior is not nearly as aware of their body temperature as a younger adult. For a person on prescription medication, it can contribute to dehydration which intensifies the threat even more.
Heat exhaustion is a milder type of heat-related illness and is typified as dehydration that occurs after prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, fatigue and confusion. Heat stroke is the most serious of all heat-related conditions. Heat stroke is dehydration as well as the body physically overheating unable to bring down its own temperature. The most distinguishable sign of heat stroke is a body temperature of 104° or higher. Additional symptoms include distorted mental state, flushed skin, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing and racing heart beat.
Here are a few tips to staying safe in the summer heat:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Wear appropriate clothing
- Stay inside during the warmest time of day—10am-4pm
- Keep an eye on the heat index
- Find an air-conditioned environment to cool down
- Learn the risks and warning signs of heat-related illness
In our area, we oftentimes experience extremely hot and humid summers. It’s important that everyone, particularly the elderly, have a heat response plan especially if they live alone and without air conditioning. This is a critical component to limiting heat exposure as well as maintaining the safety and comfort of the elderly during the hottest temperatures. If you or a loved one lives alone and without air conditioning, make a plan to stay with family or friends during the very hot days that lie ahead.