It is important to stay hydrated during the hot months of summer when heat waves are likely to occur. Dehydration reduces your ability to control temperature and increases the risk of developing a heat-related illness. Heat stroke is a major concern for senior citizens because the heat affects them more than usual. A large percentage of heat fatalities over the years have consisted of elderly people who are over the age of 65.

Caring for the Elderly: Heat Stroke and Exhaustion

Why seniors are Vulnerable to Heat Stroke

Aging makes the body less efficient when controlling temperature for various reasons. Seniors do not usually sweat as they did when they were younger. and this is an important mechanism for regulating heat. When temperatures rise, the body’s internal temperature subsequently rises, especially with direct exposure to the sun or extreme heat.

Along with the natural aging process, there are certain factors that increase a person’s risk of developing heat stroke. These include dehydration, illness, medication that reduces sweating, overdressing and residing in hot climate areas.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is characterized by symptoms that precede heat stroke and these include dizziness, weakness, fatigue, excess sweating and headache. As the individual becomes more exhausted, symptoms can end up evolving into nausea and fainting.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a serious problem that can occur within a few minutes and results from the body’s internal temperature rising faster than it can be naturally lowered. Heat stroke symptoms require urgent medical attention and include body temperature that is extremely high, confusion, lack of sweating, seizures and slipping into a coma.

If an elderly person has these symptoms, the first steps you can take are to move them to a cool area to reduce their body temperature. A cool drink, bath and air conditioning can help to reduce the symptoms as you wait for a medical professional.

Importance of Hydration

When people are thirsty their ability to control heat starts to diminish. Seniors who are already facing challenges with internal heat management or regulation are at higher risk of dehydration deterring the natural process of cooling the body. Seniors need to drink water and other beverages on a regular basis, during each meal and sip enough fluids all day long.

Prevention and Safety

There are various ways to make sure that you are safe during hot weather conditions and heat waves.

  • Dehydration causes several health problems. Drink as much water or other fluids such as juice as much as you can, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid any alcoholic beverages or drinks with caffeine because these can make dehydration worse.
  • When the weather is hot it is advisable to wear lightweight clothes that are comfortable, loose-fitting and light-colored as well as accessories such as hats to protect you from the sun.
  • During heat waves, avoid running errands or going out when the temperatures are higher. Stay indoors until the temperatures cool down.
  • Avoid any form of strenuous activities when it is extremely hot outside.
  • Seniors who live at home should have consider air conditioning or fining places that are air-conditioned to gain some relief from extreme heat.
  • Warning signs such as dizziness, chest pain, rapid breathing and fainting need to be addressed immediately.