Preventing Temperature-Related Illness in Seniors

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults are more prone to heat stress than many other age groups. Seniors’ bodies are not as capable of adjusting to high temperatures as younger adult bodies are. The CDC states that this is because seniors “are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat” or because “they are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.” No matter what makes them more prone to heat stress, it’s important to know how to safeguard against it.

It’s important to watch any seniors who may be at risk for heat exhaustion or a heat stroke, according to Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, a senior living community in Prospect Heights, IL. “Caregivers should keep a keen eye on seniors and  make sure that those in their care are educated about heat stress, as it can be life-threatening,” says Diane. “Watch to make sure they are drinking enough water and that they are dressed for the weather. Make sure to look for any of the following signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in order to prevent death or disability. Knowing what the signs are, how to prevent heat stress from occurring and what to do if it does occur, can make all the difference in your loved one’s health.”

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the mildest form of heat stress. It is common for heat stress to develop after long periods of exposure to high temperatures. Heat exhaustion symptoms include:

  • Heavy sweating with cold skin
  • Weakness or fainting
  • A pulse that is fast, but weak
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headaches
  • Fast but shallow breathing

In order to prevent a more serious illness, take action to alleviate heat exhaustion. Move to a cooler, preferably air conditioned area, if possible. Lay down, relax and sip some water. If vomiting occurs and continues, call a doctor immediately. Cool, wet cloths can be applied to the skin to lower temperature, or you can take a cold bath or shower to return body temperature back to normal. The most important thing to do is get into a cool area and rest.

Heat Stroke

Heat strokes are a severe, life-threatening medical emergency. When the body is no longer able to control its temperature through sweating, heat strokes occur. The body’s temperature can rise to extremes of 106 degrees fahrenheit within 10 to 15 minutes, causing death or permanent disability if not treated immediately. Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Lack of sweating and dry skin
  • High body temperature of 103 degrees or over
  • Red, hot skin
  • Throbbing headaches
  • Unconsciousness

If you suspect a heat stroke, call 911 immediately and remain with anyone suffering a heat stroke until help arrives. Until medical professionals arrive, move to a cooler environment with air conditioning and place cold, wet cloths over the skin to reduce body temperature. Cold baths can also help to cool the body to regular temperature. Avoid taking a shower, as weakness can make it hard to stand and cause further injury. Refrain from drinking any fluids.

5 Tips for Safeguarding Yourself and Others Against Heat Stress

It is important to know how prevent heat-related illnesses. In order to protect yourself or your loved one, try some of the following tips to help prevent a life-threatening emergency.

  1. Drink plenty of fluids. When sweating, your body loses water. To avoid dehydration, replenish the water you are losing by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you think you are not thirsty. Refrain from consuming alcohol and sugary drinks such as soda, and stay away from highly caffeinated beverages, as they raise body temperature and dehydrate the body.
  2. Stay inside. If there is a heat advisory, stay indoors in the air conditioning. If you or a loved one do not have air conditioning, find a public place that provides it, such as the mall. Stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day and refrain from cooking with the stove or oven, as they raise the temperature in the home.
  3. Go outdoors when it’s cooler. When temperatures and humidity are high, refrain from doing strenuous activity outside. If you must do work outside or exercise, do so when the temperatures are cooler, such as early in the morning or late in the evening.
  4. Dress cooler. And we don’t mean in-fashion. If you do have to go outside in times of high temperatures, wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothes. Also, don’t forget to put on sunscreen!
  5. Check on neighbors. When heat advisories are issued, check in on neighbors. Have a plan in place where you both check in with each other periodically. If they do not have access to air conditioning, see if they’d like to come over or  go somewhere with you that does.

For more information on preventing temperature-related illnesses, whether you are a senior or not, visit the CDC’s article for tips on how to stay cool, hydrated and informed.

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Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.

Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.

Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.

Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.

For more information, please call Diane or Janette, Lifestyle Specialists, at 847-243-6920.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.