How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Older Adults
Staying out in the heat for too long without enough liquids is a huge risk for heat exhaustion, however, there are some key risk factors that increase the chances of heatstroke.
- Blood vessel problems
- Heart issues
- Changes in the skin due to aging
- Lung, heart, and/or kidney disease
- Conditions that require medications which make it harder for the body to cool itself
- Taking multiple prescription drugs
- Being underweight or overweight
- Consuming alcohol
As we age, we are more likely to suffer from medical conditions that put us at a greater risk for heatstroke. Many older adults possess several of the risk factors above, which is why we must pay special attention to helping them avoid overheating.
The Danger of Heatstroke in Seniors
Heatstroke cannot be taken lightly. If not treated properly, it will lead to death. As we age, our bodies become less sensitive to temperature changes and may struggle to adjust. Many seniors may not be aware that they are overheating until they are in a severe state. Furthermore, chronic health conditions and medications make it even harder for the body to respond to heat.
Heatstroke occurs when the body reaches an internal temperature of 104 degrees or higher. It is a deadly condition that must be treated immediately. If the body is not cooled, then heatstroke can damage the brain and vital organs. The longer you wait to treat heat stroke, the higher the risk of serious complications or death.
Tips for Preventing Heatstroke in Seniors
While heatstroke is a serious risk for seniors, it does not need to prevent them from enjoying summer. There are many effective ways to lower the risk of heatstroke and keep older adults safe during the warmer months. Here are the best ways to prevent and treat heatstroke in older adults:
Evaluate their Risk
Does your loved one have conditions that may increase their likelihood of heatstroke? Speak with their doctor to learn about how their health conditions and/or medications may impact their ability to regulate temperature.
Learn How to Identify Heatstroke Symptoms
Response time is imperative for managing heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses. Know what you should look for and monitor older adults for the symptoms of heat-related illness. Help your senior cool down or get the help they need as soon as possible.
Dress for the Weather
Help your older loved one dress appropriately. They may not realize how hot it is outside until they are out there. Encourage them to wear light, loose clothing made from breathable fabric. If they are concerned about being cold or uncomfortable, help them choose layers so they can remove them accordingly.
Drink Enough Liquids
Not drinking enough liquids is a huge risk factor for heat-related illnesses. Have your older loved one drink plenty of water before heading out, and make sure to bring liquids along with you as well.
Go Outside at Cooler Times
It’s going to be very difficult to keep your senior loved one cool during the peak of the day’s heat. Plan outings around the cooler times of the day, namely earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
Keep the House Cool
Use curtains to block out the heat and sun during the day. Keep the senior on the ground or basement floor if possible as this will be the coolest area of the home. Consider buying or renting an air conditioning unit if there is not one already. When the weather cools off at night, open the windows and use the fan to blow cooler air in.
Be wary of fans. Fans can trick the body into thinking it is cooler, which means you may overheat without realizing it. The CDC advises the use of electric fans only when the temperature is below the high 90s. When the temperature is above the high 90s, opt for AC or a cool bath. A cool bath may be very difficult for seniors, so an alternative is to wet a washcloth with cold water and dab it around their face and neck.
Summer is a great time for seniors to enjoy walks, picnics, and many other fun activities. While the warm weather is great, it can also be dangerous. Take the proper precautions to protect your older loved one from heat-related illness using the tips above.