As the hot weather comes in, not everyone is excited. Some older adults dread the heat because their bodies are less able to handle heat stress than when they were younger. These individuals may find it hard to be comfortable, even at home. And, for the elderly especially, heat illness and heat stroke can be a life-threatening condition. Elders and their loved ones should be aware of the signs of heat stroke and take special precautions to prevent heat illness.
How to Check for Heat Illnesses
Heat stroke isn’t the only heat illness. There are also many milder forms, such as heat exhaustion, that will lead to more serious complications if not treated. So, it is important to catch early signs of heat illnesses, which include:
- Dizziness or fainting
- High heart rate
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Muscle cramps
More serious symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke may include:
- Body temperature above 103°F
- Excessive sweating or none
- Fast pulse that may be strong or weak
- Either dry and red skin or cool and moist skin
Older adults are more susceptible to heat illnesses than younger people, so any symptoms of heat illness are very concerning in older loved ones. You should reach out to a doctor if you or a loved one experiences any of the abovementioned symptoms.
Preventing Heat Illnesses in the Elderly
Hydration is a huge factor in preventing heat illnesses. Many of us do not drink as much water as we should, so it’s important to enjoy cool, varied, water-based drinks to promote hydration. A good rule to follow is drink before you feel thirsty!
Food with high amounts of water is also a good option during the hot, summer months. Consider a salad with romaine lettuce, celery, cucumbers and radishes. Or, serve a fruit salad with watermelon, pineapple and grapefruit.
While fans can be a great tool to help keep cool, they shouldn’t be a primary method to cool down. Some people struggle to sweat properly, and without that sweat, a fan is not nearly as effective. Access to an air-conditioned space is much more ideal.
Of course, that doesn’t mean staying inside the whole summer! With certain precautions older adults can enjoy the outdoors as much as anyone else. One strategy is to head out in the mornings, before the heat has reached its peak. If you’re not a morning person, the evening, after the sun has started to move below the horizon, is also be a good option.
When an older adult is in the heat, they should take care to wear sunscreen, light colored clothing, and have access to shade. Bringing an umbrella or planning to sit beneath trees or another source of shade is a good idea. Stay within a short distance of an air-conditioned space so that you or a loved one can be quickly brought there at the first signs of heat illness.
When you know the symptoms to watch out for, and take appropriate steps to prevent heat illness, the sun doesn’t have to stop summer fun!