During the long, cold winter, we enthusiastically anticipated the heat of summer. What a relief to finally throw open the windows and let the warm breezes blow through the house! However, now that we’re approaching the dog days of summer, it’s critical to take preventative measures to make certain we’re aware of the signs of heat stroke and heat-related complications that may impact seniors.
Why Heat Impacts Seniors Differently
We all know that children can spend hours playing outside during the summertime, barely breaking a sweat. Young adults are out gardening, mowing the lawn, even jogging in spite of the high temperatures. For older adults, however, there are physiological differences that significantly increase the risk for dangerous health issues when the weather heats up. Poor circulation, inefficient sweat glands, chronic illnesses, medications, and much more are not unusual in aging, and may bring about:
- Heat stroke
- Heat edema
- Heat syncope
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
- And more
Signs to Watch for
Keep an eye out for these symptoms whenever an older adult you love spends time in the heat:
- A body temperature over 104 degrees Fahrenheit (indicating heat stroke)
- Confusion, agitation, and other behavioral changes
- Delirium or coma
- Flushed, dry skin
- A rapid, strong pulse
- Lack of sweating
How to Help
If you notice these symptoms, the individual needs prompt medical attention. Call 911 and have the person lie down in a cooler environment. Place a cool, damp cloth on the senior’s wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. If possible, have the senior sip on water or juice, but nothing with alcohol or caffeine. A spray bottle full of cold water may also be used to mist the individual.
The best plan of action, however, is prevention. Following these recommendations will help older adults safely enjoy the summertime:
- Stay in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Outdoor activities should be scheduled during the early morning or evening.
- Make sure the senior remains hydrated. Plain water as well as carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages (like Gatorade) are best.
- When outside, seek out shaded locations, avoiding over-exertion.
- Select light-colored clothing in breathable materials, such as linen or cotton, together with a wide-brimmed hat.
- Always wear sunscreen.
- Make sure older adults are drinking plenty of fluids
- Take care of housework, meal preparation, and other chores around the house
- Provide transportation to enjoyable, air-conditioned outings such as museums, the mall, as well as the library
- Engage in fun activities in the home, such as arts and crafts and favorite hobbies and interests
- And so much more
Email or give us a call at 410-756-0959 for a free in-home assessment and for additional details on our award-winning in home care services for older adults. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Locations Served page.