Keeping seniors safe in the heat

Summer is the time of the year that brings bloom and warmth with it. This may be a wonderful experience for the youth but it can be a dangerous one for seniors who are more sensitive to environmental temperature changes. One survey done in the United States from 1999 to 2009 showed that 40% of deaths due to heat-related illnesses occurred in individuals who were 65 or older. In the summertime, excessive heat and high temperature cause our body to work overtime and harder to maintain a healthy internal temperature so it can function properly.

Why are seniors more sensitive to heat changes?

High temperatures can be deadly to seniors because they don’t react to changes in environmental temperature the way young people do. As the body experiences the wear and tear that comes with age, the temperature regulatory system of our body becomes less efficient for example:

  • The fatty layer beneath the skin that provides insulations to protect us from heat and cold wears down.
  • Perspiration in seniors becomes less as they age making it harder for the body to provide an overall cooling effect.

Besides these special health conditions make some seniors more susceptible to negative effects of heat than others, for example:

  • Special Diseases- Diseases like vascular or various heart diseases don’t allow the body to cool down properly. Overheating of the body is easy in this condition.
  • Medications- Diuretics cause the effects of dehydration to worsen and sedatives can make individuals numb to the discomforts of excessive heat.

Tips to help seniors keep cool in Summertime

You should start preparing for summer before it comes to avoid your senior loved one from experiencing any discomfort:

Stay away from the sun:  The best way to avoid excessive heat is to avoid direct contact with sunlight. Walking is healthy for seniors but during times of excessive heat, it’s best to limit walking outdoors.

Want to know how beneficial walking is for seniors? Read: Walking Benefits for Seniors and Older Adults”.

Air Conditioning: Make sure to clear out all air filters before summertime. Air conditions provide a much-needed reprieve from the heat.

Staying hydrated: Cool water, fresh juices, and liquids that don’t have alcohol and caffeine in them are the best options to stay hydrated at all times.

Dressing summer-ready: loose and light-colored clothing are the best options for summertime. Light-colored clothing absorbs less heat.

Protection against sunburn: Lotions with SPF higher than 15 are the best protection from the harmful effects of the sun. Sunlight is the major cause of skin cancer which is the most prevalent type of cancer in the United States.

Protection against bugs: Bugs are a common problem in summer times. These critters can cause diseases that can be deadly for seniors. Insect repellents is a good precautionary measure that all seniors should take before going outdoors

Cooldown body temperature: Showers and baths are an easy way to cool down during summertime. The water that your senior loved one uses should not be too hot or too cold. A moderate temperature is the best option.

Spotting negative effects of heat and treatment

It is important to spot when excessive heat is causing problems for seniors. The best way to detect the negative effects of heat is to look for the following signs in seniors:

Dehydration

Dehydration is the excessive loss of fluid from the body.

Signs of dehydration:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of energy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dark-colored urine

Treatment: Drinking the needed amount of water and drinking electrolyte restoring fluids is important. Electrolytes perform the important function of maintaining a proper heartbeat. A health care provider should be called if your senior loved one suffers from heart disease or takes diuretics.

Heatstroke

A deadly rise in body temperature occurs when your senior loved one is exposed to high temperatures on a daily basis.

Signs of Heatstroke:

  • Rise in body temperature to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
  • Red, hot and dry skin
  • Fast beating pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Passing out

Treatment:

Call for medical help fast if you detect these signs in your loved one. Other things that can help are moving them to a cool place, taking off heavy clothing that does not let air pass through, and putting a wet cloth on the forehead, neck, hands, or feet.

Heat Exhaustion

When excessive heat and dehydration combine this leads to heat exhaustion. If this condition is not treated, heatstroke can occur.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Paleness
  • Cold skin
  • Clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Treatment:

Drinking plenty of fluids and moving to a cool place is the best treatment for heat exhaustion. This should be done quickly to avoid heatstroke.

Heat Syncope

Heat Syncope is fainting or dizziness that happens as a result of prolonged overexposure to heat and the inability to adapt to the rising temperature.

Signs of heat syncope:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Light-headedness after standing for a long time and rising from a lying or sitting condition suddenly.

Treatment:

Treatment includes sitting or lying down as soon as a faintness is felt, decreasing body temperature by moving to a cool area, monitoring vital signs at all times. One of the most effective treatments is elevating legs so blood can reach and return to the heart faster.

Amazing Grace Homecare advice loved ones to take some additional measures that help their seniors fight these health conditions before they occur are:

  • Don’t wait till your senior loved one feels thirsty and keep giving them adequate amounts of water after regular intervals.
  • Caffeinated drinks have a dehydrating effect so it’s best to avoid them.
  • Checking for excessive weight loss daily may indicate dehydration so keep monitoring it.
  • High water content fruits and vegetables help your senior stay hydrated at all times.

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