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Heat Stroke & Seniors: How to Stay Safe During the Summer Heat
Did you know people ages 65 and older are more prone to heat-related health problems like a stroke? Seniors do not adjust as well as younger people to changes in temperature. They’re more likely to have chronic medical conditions and take prescription medications, all of which can affect their body’s ability to maintain normal temperatures and control sweat.
Heat-related illnesses are 100-percent preventable. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature and it rises rapidly. Heat stroke can cause death and permanent damage if not treated immediately, so contact your doctor or emergency medical personnel immediately if you experience any of these signs or symptoms:
- An extremely high body temperature (often above 103 degrees F)
- Dizziness and/or nausea
- Heat exhaustion
- Rapid or strong pulse
- Red, hot, and dry skin without sweating
- Throbbing, painful headache
Heat exhaustion is a milder heat-related illness than heat stroke which can occur after several days of exposure to high temps and low fluid intake. Some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion are similar to heatstroke, like dizziness and/or nausea, vomiting, headaches, but others include:
- Cool or moist skin
- Fast and shallow breathing
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramping
- Rapid and weak pulse rate
If you’re an older adult or a caregiver of a loved one, consider these tips for staying safe during the heat.
- Watch your water intake. Are you drinking enough? When it’s hot outside, you should drink more water than usual and do not wait until you’re thirsty to drink. By then, it’s too late.
- Stay cool indoors near air conditioning. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, contact the local health department or an air-conditioned shelter near you. You can also visit your local library, public shopping mall, or a friend or family member’s home to cool off. If you must be outdoors, look for cool, shaded areas to rest.
- Do not use the stove, oven, or other appliances that make your home hotter in the summertime.
- Choose lightweight, loose, and light-colored clothing, especially when out and about during the heat.
- Cool down with a cool shower, bath, or dip in a swimming pool. If you swim outdoors, don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
- Refrain from strenuous activities, especially outdoors when the sun’s at its hottest, and get plenty of rest in between activity.
- Check on your loved one when the weather is warm, and, if you live alone, ask someone to do the same for you. We recommend twice a day visits, watching for signs or symptoms of heatstroke or exhaustion.
- Check the local news and weather reports. It’s important to know when a heatwave may strike so you can take the appropriate health and safety precautions.
- If you’re experiencing any symptoms of a heat-related illness, like muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, vomiting, or fainting, call 9-1-1 immediately.
If you think you or a loved one might be in heat-related stress or dealing with a life-threatening emergency related to heat stroke or exhaustion, always call for medical assistance or have someone call for you. You should also:
- Get the person to a shaded, cool area.
- Cool the person rapidly with a cool shower, cool water from a nearby hose or water bottle, or a cool, wet washcloth.
- Monitor their body temperatures and continue cooling until their body temperature drops to 101-102 degrees F.
- If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room immediately and ask for additional instructions while you wait.