Elder Issues with Increased Risk for Heat Related Illnesses

Given changes in climate due to global warming temperatures are steadily increasing every year with the worst, of course, being throughout summer months.  While we all want our elders to remain as active and vibrant as possible, to ensure safety, there are recommended precautions to prevent or at least minimize risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat related illnesses:

·        Schedule outdoor activities, such as daily walks, during the coolest parts of the day – early in the morning or late evenings before sun set.

·        Staying hydrated both indoors and out helps one’s body maintain normal temperature and allows for sufficient amount of sweat.  Those with health conditions which require limited fluid intake should consult their physician on how much extra can be consumed safely.  Avoid all alcoholic beverages.

·        Consult your doctor or pharmacist about your list of medications and review which, if any, make you more susceptible to heat related illnesses.  Also, review what measures can be taken to prevent overheating due to medication(s) and, act quickly if you notice symptoms.

·        Wear loose fitting, lightweight and light-color attire.  Apparel that is dark and/or tight fitting inhibits evaporation of sweat; thereby, not allowing one’s body to cool appropriately.

·        Always use sunscreen which, not only helps prevent sunburns but, is a necessary precaution against skin cancer.

·        Further to avoid sunburn, wear a lightweight, wide-brimmed hat or use a light color umbrella.  Though many might not be aware, a sunburn reduces the body’s ability to rid itself of heat.

·        Allow your body to acclimate to the heat.  When traveling to a warmer climate or during a heat wave in your area, it can take up to several weeks for your body to adjust to the temperatures.  Until then, it is advisable to take appropriate precautions but working and exercising should become more tolerable over time.  However, if on vacation for instance, an individual would not have several weeks to wait but, for the sake of one’s health, it is advisable to delay at least a few days before attempting brisk activities.  In such instances, continue to take precautions and rest often to allow your body to cool down.

·        For those without air conditioning or who cannot afford to run their a/c during the hottest parts of the day, take this time to visit a local library, shopping mall or participate in adult day care or other indoor activities that are enjoyable.

·        Though helpful to a certain extent, fans on their own do not provide adequate cooling during heightened temperatures and humidity.

·        If you are a distance from your elder you can offer seniors help in by arranging for neighbors to look in on elders in the area.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Heatstroke symptoms include:

High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.

Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.

Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.

Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.

Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.

Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.

Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.

Headache. Your head may throb. 

When to see a doctor

If you think a person may be experiencing heatstroke, seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency services number.

Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

·      Get the person into shade or indoors.

·      Remove excess clothing.

·      Cool the person with whatever means available — put in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray with a garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person's head, neck, armpits and groin.”

Further according to the Mayo Clinic, “Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of exercise. Possible heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include:

·      Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat

·      Heavy sweating

·      Faintness

·      Dizziness

·      Fatigue

·      Weak, rapid pulse

·      Low blood pressure upon standing

·      Muscle cramps

·      Nausea

·      Headache

When to see a doctor


If you think you're experiencing heat exhaustion:

·      Stop all activity and rest

·      Move to a cooler place

·      Drink cool water or sports drinks

Contact your doctor if your signs or symptoms worsen or if they don't improve within one hour. Seek immediate medical attention if your body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher.” 

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Source: http://www.adviseandprotectscc.com/blog/20...