Tips to Avoid Heat Stroke in Seniors
Did you know that when you feel thirsty you are already at 2% dehydration and your ability to regulate heat begins to decline? For seniors who struggle to manage body temperature, dehydration can be catastrophic.
Learn about why seniors are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses and how you can keep your parents or senior loved ones safe from heat stroke when the temperature spikes.
The Dangers of Heat Stroke
Hot weather can be dangerous for anyone, but seniors are more likely to be affected by heat than other adults. In fact, a study from the University of Chicago Medical Center found that of all the heat-related fatalities in the United States, 40% were among people over the age of 65.
Seniors are more vulnerable to excessive heat for a few reasons, which include:
- Lack of airflow or access to air-conditioning
- Medications that increase the risk of dehydration and reduce sweating
- Retiring in warm climates (i.e. Arizona and Florida)
- Salt-restricted diets
- The ability to notice body temperature fluctuations decreases with age making seniors less likely to seek refuge from the heat
- Underlying health conditions that make seniors less able to adapt to heat
7 Ways to Prevent Heat Stroke in Seniors
Fortunately, with a little precaution, it is possible for seniors to enjoy warm weather safely.
These seven tips can help keep your parent or senior loved one safe outdoors year round:
1. Avoid outdoor exercise.
In extreme heat, avoid outdoor exercise and strenuous activity. This could be a great time to do a low-intensity workout or hit the weights in an air-conditioned gym.
2. Avoid the hottest parts of the day.
When the temperatures spike, make your way inside. During periods of extreme heat, time your outdoor adventure or errands to be before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. when the sun tends to be less intense and the temperature a little cooler.
3. Be aware of the heat index.
Even though the temperature may not be high, it’s important to watch the heat index. The heat index takes humidity into account and approximates how hot the weather really feels. When the heat index is high and there’s a lot of moisture in the air, the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating is impaired.
4. Drink liquids.
Dehydration is the cause of many heat-related health issues. Drinking water, even if you are not thirsty, can help avoid dehydration. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these drinks can cause further dehydration.
5. Know the warning signs of heat-related illness.
When the temperature spikes, it’s important to monitor your body regularly and take note of how you feel. Breathing problems, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, headache, nausea and rapid heartbeat are all warning signs of heat-related illness and medical attention should be sought immediately.
6. Seek an air-conditioned environment.
If you or a senior loved one does not have air-conditioning, find a cool place to spend the hottest parts of the day. Head to the mall, the public library or the local senior center to stay safe from extreme temperatures. In cases of extreme heat, many cities will set up air-conditioned shelters for seniors and those most vulnerable to the heat.
7. Wear appropriate clothing.
When the weather is warm, dress accordingly and wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes. Add in a wide-brimmed hat for good measure.
How do you keep yourself or your senior loved ones safe from heat stroke? Share your tips with us in the comments below.
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