How to help seniors prevent a heat stroke
Older adults aged 65 years and above are more vulnerable to problems related to heat and poor hydration. In a recent study done by the University of Chicago Medical Center. Seniors aged 65 years and above, accounted for about 40% of cases of the heat fatalities in the US. Sudden changes in temperature are not very well tolerated by our elderly loved ones. Furthermore, various medications and several ailments can affect the body’s ability to manage sweat and cause dehydration. It seems that the body’s natural capability to adhere to temperature changes is greatly affected due to advancing age. In addition, the body’s temperature regulation mechanism, paving way for dehydration as well as heat stroke.
Understanding heat stroke in the elderly
Extreme hot temperatures are not always well tolerated by all age groups. And more so by the senior population. With advancing age, our body undergoes a lot of changes. The sweat glands become less efficient in managing the sweat. With a significant decrease in circulation, making our elderly loved ones more likely to suffer a heat stroke. Additionally, our seniors also fall prey to various chronic diseases such as:
- Heart disease
Which significantly increases their chances of suffering a heat stroke.
A heat stroke is a condition, characterized by a high body temperature, that rises above 103 degrees F within 10–15 minutes. The condition can cause death or permanent disability in the elderly if immediate action is not initiated on time.
Heat exhaustion is another form of heat illness, but mild in nature, when compared to heat stroke. This particular condition needs mention here since we are discussing heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is equally important, during hot summer days. Elderly can even develop this condition, after several days of heat exposure and inadequate fluid intake. In view of this, it also becomes necessary to mention the various signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion.
- Sweating excessively
- Muscle cramps
- Pale skin
- Undue fatigue
- Fast and shallow breathing
- Rapid pulse rate
Symptoms of heat stroke
If your elderly is experiencing any of the following symptoms, then it is best to consult the doctor as soon as possible.
- A rapid pulse
- Hot, red and dry skin, which indicates the inability of the body to produce sweat
- Decreased urinary output
- Nausea accompanied by anorexia and vomiting
- A high body temperature
- A headache along with dizziness
- Visual disturbances
- Kidney failure
As caregivers, you should take careful note of all the above-mentioned symptoms of heat stroke. You also need to make your elderly aware of the said symptoms. So that they can adopt strategies to prevent dehydration.
What to do for a Heat Stroke
If you suspect, that your elderly is suffering from heat stroke, then you would need to do the following:
Keep them cool
Lowering the body temperature is the key and for that, you would immediately need to shift your elderly to a cool place. If you do not have an air conditioner, then it is advisable to shift them to a place where such facilities are available. You can also think of keeping a wet towel handy for your senior, which they can use for lowering their body temperature. Secondly, you can also consider making use of cool packs, which can be placed on the head, chest, and neck to lower the body temperature.
Keep them hydrated
Give them fluids and salty snacks, that can help to correct the sudden fall in the electrolyte levels. Non – alcoholic, as well as non – caffeinated beverages, prove to be the best pals during hot summer days.
Avoid strenuous activity
Do not allow your elderly to indulge in any form of physical activity when they are experiencing such symptoms.
If your elderly still does not feel comfortable, then it is best to seek medical attention at the earliest.
Tips to prevent heat stroke in the elderly
During summers, when the temperature keeps rising, and the sun doesn’t show any mercy. It is necessary that we protect our seniors from the wrath of heat waves. Heat stroke can become life-threatening for the elderly. And therefore, one must take adequate precautions to prevent an emergency. Here are several tips to prevent heat stroke in the elderly:
Staying cool and indoors in an air conditioner is the best way to avoid getting exposed to the sun.
When the temperature outside is extremely hot, then a fan alone is not always sufficient to cool the room and you would need some additional air cooling systems. If your home does not have an air conditioner, then you need to contact your nearest health department or you can locate a home shelter with air cooling facilities.
Make sure the elderly wear light-colored clothing.
Dark colored clothing absorbs more heat and it is, therefore, always advisable to wear light-colored clothing whenever you move out. Light fitting clothing would also make your elderly comfortable in the hot sun.
Staying well hydrated is very important to prevent a heat stroke.
Drink plenty of fluids in small intervals. However, if your elderly is on fluid restriction, it is necessary that you contact the doctor on how much fluids to drink during summer days.
Rest as much as possible
Advise your elderly to rest as much rest as possible and don’t allow them to indulge in heavy or strenuous activities that would cause them to sweat.
Do not allow your elderly to go out in the midday sun.
Plan the day to run errands either before 10 in the morning or after 6 in the evening. In between, it is advisable to stay indoors.
Shower to stay cool
If you find your elderly is sweating and feeling hot, then ask them to take cool showers at least twice a day. Taking frequent baths during hot summer days. At least twice in a day, is a good idea, as it helps them to stay fresh and also helps in lowering the body temperature.
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and exhaustion.
If you find that your elderly is perspiring excessively, or his / her body has a high temperature and they seem to have a rapid pulse rate, or are having difficulty to breathe. Then it is advisable to contact the doctor immediately.
As we get older, it is harder to stay cool. Follow the above tips and suggestions to help with the dog days of summer. Also, check out this post on thinning skin.