Heat Can be Dangerous for Seniors. Here’s What You Need to Know.

No matter your age, heat safety is important. However, staying safe during the summer heat is absolutely essential for seniors. When the temperatures rise, finding respite from the summer heat isn’t always as simple as it seems. In this blog, we’ll explore heat-related illnesses, why seniors are more susceptible to them, and what you can do to help keep your friends, neighbors and loved ones safe this summer.

What is heat-related illness?

You may be familiar with heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but there are other heat-related illnesses you should be aware of.

  • Heat syncope – This is sudden dizziness that can happen if you’re active in hot weather. It’s most common if you’re not acclimated to hot weather or if you take beta blockers. If this happens, rest in a cool place, drink some water and put your legs up.
  • Heat cramps — These muscle spasms can occur in the stomach, arms or legs during hard work or intense exercise. If this happens, stop your physical activity and rest in the shade. Drinking electrolytes, such as a sports drink, can help.
  • Heat edema — When you get hot, swelling can occur in the ankles or feet. Putting your legs up can help reduce the swelling.
  • Heat rash — This skin irritation results from heavy sweating and looks like red clusters of small pimples. Your skin may feel itchy or prickly. Keep the affected area dry and use powder to calm the rash.
  • Heat exhaustion is the first sign that your body cannot keep itself cool. Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, dizziness, thirst, weakness, nausea, and profuse sweating. Even though your body temperature may still be normal, your skin may feel cold and clammy. If this happens, rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids. Pay attention to the signs; heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
  • Heat strokeThis is a medical emergency. During heat stroke, the body’s temperature rises above 104°F. Symptoms include fainting, confusion, not sweating, dry/flushed skin, and a strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek immediate medical help and move to a cooler place. Use a cool bath or fan to help lower body temperature.

Why do seniors need respite from the heat?

Many seniors have chronic health conditions or take medications that put them at higher risk of heat-related illness. Some of the factors that put older adults at greater risk are:

  • Older adults don’t sweat or cool down as efficiently as younger people.
  • Prescription medications, such as those used to treat COPD or high blood pressure, may make seniors more sensitive to heat.
  • Heat stress can worsen heart, lung and kidney disease.
  • Seniors may not have air conditioning or easy ways to stay cool at home.

How can you help keep seniors safe?

If you have an elderly loved one or neighbor, check on them during the hot summer months. Here are ways to stay safe in the heat:

  • Ask your doctor if any of your medications make you more likely to become overheated.
  • Drink plenty of water or electrolyte drinks. If your doctor has told you to limit liquids, ask him or her what to do when it is very hot.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Try to keep the living space as cool as possible; use air conditioning or fans, limit the oven use, keep shades closed during the hottest part of the day, and open windows at night if there is no AC.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning at home, go to a cooler place during the hottest part of the day. This could be a library, senior center, the mall, or a friend’s house.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid outdoor exercising when it’s very hot.
  • Limit your time outside.
  • Wear sunscreen.

Trio Healthcare Can Help

At Trio Healthcare facilities, our expert care teams understand how to keep seniors safe in the summer heat. We also offer 24/7 respite care services to give you peace of mind, knowing that your loved one will be taken care of if you need to step away or if access to a cool living space is a problem. For more information on respite care services, contact a location near you.