It is that time of year again, the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the days are longer. With the sun and summer months, also comes the heat. If you are not hydrated throughout the day, especially if you are outside, the higher your chances of heat stroke. This is especially serious for older adults.
Heat stroke happens when the body overheats to 104 °F or higher. It can be hazardous for older adults, and if not treated, it can permanently damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and possibly lead to death. Older adults do not adjust
as well as young people to sudden temperature changes. Other factors such as health conditions, and medications are reasons why the elderly are more vulnerable.
Why Seniors Are At A Higher Risk
As we age, our bodies lose strength with adjusting to temperature. Because seniors sweat less than younger adults, their body temperature remains higher. Add the summer heat to their already warm bodies, and it becomes a deadly combination. This is why seniors suffer from heat stroke more often than younger people. Other contributing high-risk factors are dehydration, prescription medications, and chronic illnesses such as heart and kidney disease, and blood circulation conditions.
Early warning signs are excessive sweating, tiredness, weakness, muscle cramps, rapid breathing, flushed skin, confusion, slurred speech, irritability, and headaches. These are all direct signs that your body is dehydrated and needs water. If you ignore immediate treatment, then the results may be nausea, fainting, and vomiting.
Prevention Is Key
In order to prevent heat exhaustion or a stroke occurrence, hydration is key Here are a few tips to stay cool this
- Drink plenty of water. Instead of drinking water all at once, drink a cup at every meal, and take sips throughout the day. Drink more water than normal.
- Stay indoors during the mid-day. Between the hours of 12pm-4pm is the hottest time period
- Wear cooler clothing. Wearing loose, lightweight clothing will reduce excess body heat.
- Take cool showers or baths to help your body maintain temperature.
- Relax. Do not do any strenuous activity, especially outside when it’s hot.
- Stay in air-conditioned areas. If your home does not have air conditioning, then go to the library, grocery store, a friend’s house or other places that are when outside temperatures climb Make sure to get an air conditioner in your house during summer when the heat waves occur. Fans are just not good enough when it is smoldering outside. They trick the body into thinking it is cooler than it actually is.
- Know the warning signs so you can take action.
What If You Are Experiencing Heat Exhaustion/Stroke?
If you are experiencing some warning signs or just feel off, then remove restrictive clothing immediately. Rest in a cool, shady area, or get to an air-conditioned room. Drink water and take a cool shower or bath. Monitor your body heat with a thermometer and increase your water intake. If you are alone, call your neighbor, family, or 911 for help.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be life-threatening, especially as you age. Heat stroke deaths are on the rise from the dangerously hot summers that have been occurring in recent years. Once your body temperature rises above 104, changes in brain function occur, with the possibility of permanent damage. Between 2015 and 2016, extreme heat deaths more than doubled from 45 to 94. Last year in 2018, 54 people died during a heat wave in Quebec, many of them over 65. Know the signs, stay cool and hydrated. Summer only comes once a year, so enjoy it as much as you can, responsibly!