Heat-related illness is a serious concern for people of all ages during the “Dog Days of Summer” from July through August. Excessive sun exposure and sweltering conditions can be a health hazard for people over age 65. We offer 4 tips to keep your aging loved one safe in hot weather but first, let’s review the 3 types of heat stress to watch out for this summer.
What Are the 3 Types of Heat-Related Illness?
When exposed to hot temperatures and strong rays of sunshine for long periods of time, the human body can react in a negative way. Our body temperature rises and we can become extremely dehydrated from lack of cool fluids. If your loved one experiences sudden symptoms in the heat, it could be one of three heat related illnesses.
This physical reaction occurs when the body overheats and starts to dehydrate. Warning signs include extreme sweating or no sweating, muscle cramps, clammy skin, dizziness, weakness and nausea. If this happens, move the senior into the shade and call 911.
A senior is suffering from heat stroke when body temperature rises above 103ᵒ Fahrenheit. Symptoms include red skin, increased heart rate, headache, dizziness, nausea and confusion. In a shaded area, loosen clothing and get your senior a glass of cold water after calling 911.
Finally, heat syncope is the act of fainting caused by extreme temperatures. Dizziness and fainting can be very dangerous for seniors, who are already at an increased fall risk. Collapsing from the heat can put seniors at further risk to dislocate or break a bone.
Tips to Protect Seniors from Heat
People young and old enjoy getting outdoors with friends and family for their favorite summer activities. Unfortunately, seniors must take more precautions when spending time in the heat to prevent a potential health crisis. The following tips can help keep them safe.
As we age, our bodies become less able to conserve water. While outdoors this summer, make sure seniors drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine, instead opting for sports drinks when feeling weak, dizzy or confused to replace lost electrolytes.
In extreme temperatures, it’s important to dress for the weather to avoid heat-related illness. Seniors should wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, a sun hat and sunglasses. Harsh UV rays can cause eye irritation in the elderly, who are already at risk for vision loss.
Stay in Cool Places
During a heatwave, it’s best for everyone to stay indoors with the air conditioning on. Since chronic illnesses can be exacerbated by extreme heat, seniors should stay in cool places whenever possible, whether that’s a nursing facility, shopping mall or movie theater.
If your loved one has a health condition and is on medication to treat its symptoms, talk with a doctor about the safest place to store it. Especially if a home does not have air conditioning, medications can become less effective when stored at high temperatures.
At Avon Health Center, we make sure to take potential health risks into account when creating our monthly recreation calendar, including extreme temperatures. Contact us today to learn about admission to our skilled nursing facility for your aging loved one.
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