Older people are susceptible to the harmful effects of hot weather. According to a Climate Central analysis, 12,000 Americans die each year from heat-related causes, and over 80% are above 60.
There is an increased risk of heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion. Also, a potentially lethal condition known as heatstroke for older persons throughout the summer.
Fortunately, you can help keep your elderly loved one safe this summer by taking a few easy steps and learning about the dangers of heat on the elderly.
Why Are the Elderly More Susceptible to Heat Exhaustion?
For various reasons, the elderly are more susceptible to heat.
Aging causes a decline in one’s ability to sweat. Because the elderly bodies keep less water as they age, older people sweat less, which reduces the amount of perspiration to cool the body.
Many circumstances make it difficult for elders to handle the heat. Diseases of the heart and circulatory system can compromise blood vessels, acting as the body’s heat ducts. They hinder heat dissipation if the circulatory system cannot function properly.
Dehydration can also occur as a side effect of some medications the elderly take. Medications with diuretic effects, such as heart disease, renal disease, and high blood pressure, cause the body to evacuate water and salt through urination.
When the elderly don’t replenish the salts in their bodies used as electrolytes, their bodies remain dehydrated.
Seniors may also be less likely to sense the need to drink and hence neglect to do so. A lack of hydration can lead to cognitive deterioration and physical weakness, leading to a cycle of under-hydration that becomes more difficult to break.
What Is a Heat Stroke?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heatstroke is the most catastrophic heat-related illness. It’s a medical emergency that remains to be addressed right away.
When the body’s temperature-control mechanisms fail, a condition known as heat stroke or sunstroke ensues. It’s described as a rapidly rising body temperature of over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by neurological warning symptoms like confusion, convulsions, or unconsciousness.
What Are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke?
How to tell whether someone is suffering from heatstroke:
- Behavioral shifts such as confusion, combativeness, staggering, and possibly delirium
- A fever of 103 degrees or higher in the body
- Skin that is flushed or heated but does not sweat
- A pounding heartbeat
- A feeling of disorientation or perplexity
- Loss of consciousness
What Is Heat Exhaustion, and How Does It Affect the Body?
As with heat exhaustion, heatstroke is a severe condition that can develop if left untreated. Excessive perspiration might lead to heat exhaustion. This condition occurs because of the body’s reaction to a significant loss of salt and water.
Here are some symptoms of heat exhaustion in older adults:
- Sweating profusely
- Skin that is pale, chilly, and clammy
- Muscle cramps
- A quick, weak heartbeat
- Vomiting or nausea
If you’re suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, here’s what to do.
If you detect any of the symptoms stated above in your loved one, follow these life-saving precautions to avoid a potentially dangerous, heat-related situation:
- Make sure they are cooled down
Cover their neck, face, and head in cold compresses.
- Remove clothing
Socks, shoes, or anything else that could cause them to overheat.
- Provide cool water
Persuade the older adult to drink in small, frequent sips.
- Look for help if necessary
If symptoms increase or don’t go away, get medical attention.
When in doubt about whether a loved one is suffering from heatstroke, take the following three steps:
- Call for help
Take the older adult to the hospital or dial 911. Treatment delays might be lethal or create irreversible harm.
- Cool them off
The best thing you can do for your loved ones while waiting for aid is to take them somewhere cool. Get them out of their clothes and apply ice packs or cold compresses to their body to reduce swelling. If at all workable, place them in a cool bath or shower to help them chill down more quickly.
- They should avoid aspirin and excessive fluids
Most heatstroke victims are in an altered state of awareness, which makes it difficult to drink or swallow properly. Help them drink a bit at a time if they’re able to. Keep them cold and conscious as long as possible until aid arrives.