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Hot Days, Cool Seniors: Heatstroke Prevention Tips for the Elderly

by Jessica Hegg June 03, 2024 0 Comments

elderly woman on beach in the sun

Summer is always a great time to get out and enjoy the sunshine, just as long as you remember to stay safe. Conditions like heat stroke and dehydration can be a threat to anyone, but especially for older adults. Learn more about the risks seniors face in summer below, and find a variety of ways to beat the heat.

Heat Safety for Older Adults

There is a variety of heat-related conditions, ranging from mild to very severe. The warmer it gets, the more likely anyone will be to suffer from heat stroke, dehydration, heat rash, or sunburn. However, seniors need to take special care on hot days. But why?

  • Statistically, older adults are more likely to have underlying health conditions that can be exacerbated by prolonged exposure to heat and sun. Conditions that impair your cardiovascular system can make it harder for your body to regulate its internal temperature.
  • Additionally, many medications commonly taken by seniors can dehydrate your body. That means you need to drink extra water to keep up, and you're at higher risk of all heat-related health conditions. Diuretics, sedatives, and blood pressure medications can all contribute to dehydration.
  • Even if you’re not suffering from a medical condition or taking medication, older adults lose some of their ability to sweat. This happens because our bodies can’t retain as much water in old age, making it harder to regulate body temperature.
  • Finally, many seniors are less physically and mentally strong than they were when they were younger. That means any negative effects caused by heat will only hit harder.

Hot Weather Safety Tips

Even though heat-related health conditions are a serious matter, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy all that summer has to offer. Just make sure to follow these hot weather safety tips to stay safe and healthy.

Avoid Direct Sun

The easiest way to avoid the brunt of summer’s heat while out and about is to seek shade whenever possible. This might mean choosing a shady spot under a tree, though a big sunhat can also work wonders. You can also plan summer activities for later in the evening or early in the morning to avoid the sun’s harshest rays.

Stay Cool

Whether you’re spending the day inside or want a cool retreat to come back to after a day in the sun, air conditioning is a powerfully. If you’re feeling hot and tired, make sure to spend plenty of time in an air-conditioned space. Of course, it’s good to keep your home cool, but you can also find chilled spaces at the library, restaurants, malls, and theaters. By planning, you can ensure you’re not left high and dry.

If you don’t have air conditioning at home, a simple fan can be the next best thing. You can also keep your windows open at night, so your home starts fresh. Finally, limit your use of the oven to keep from adding any unnecessary heat. If you want a quick dose of cool, an ice pack might be the perfect way to lower your body temperature and help you feel more comfortable at home.

Dryer climates can be among the most dangerous, overheating your body and dehydrating it at the same time. That’s why a humidifier can be a good idea for your home.

Time Your Outside Time

The hottest part of the day is between 1 and 5 pm, so it’s important to organize your tasks accordingly. If you have errands to run, try scheduling them before lunch to minimize the impact of the heat and sun. Depending on where you live, this can make a difference of 10 degrees or more! If you must run errands during the hottest part of the day, make sure to take extra precautions. 

Keep Hydrated

Make sure to carry a water bottle when you go out so you always have a sip of water within arm’s reach. Ideally, you should drink eight glasses of water each day, though this number may increase if you’re sweating in the heat. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, as these will dehydrate you further.

Learn more about the health benefits of drinking water here.

Dress Smart

Loose clothing is the best choice on a hot day, as it allows air to flow over your skin and keeps you cool. It’s also a good idea to stick with light colors, which reflect the sun rather than absorb it. A black shirt and pants are not a good choice for hot weather!

Also, don’t forget accessories like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, which are must-haves for summertime.

Be Prepared

In addition to your clothing choices, there are other items worth keeping on hand in hot weather. The most important would have to be sunscreen, specifically SPF 15 or higher. This will provide the greatest protection from the sun, helping to reduce your risk of getting sunburn.

A fitness tracker is another handy item to have on hand in summer. Even if you’re not exercising, it can help you track your physical activity, so you can be sure you’re not overexerting yourself.

Stay Informed

There’s no better weapon against hot weather than knowledge. When summer kicks off, make sure to check in with your local weather report frequently. This can help you plan your schedule to avoid the hottest parts of the day,

Identifying & Treating Heat-Related Health Conditions

Another way to stay informed about summertime health is to be aware of the range of different heat-related conditions that are out there. Below is information on some of the most common, as well as what you can do to treat them.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when your internal body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which can happen gradually, even over days. It can be deadly in some cases, while in others result in headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and passing out.

If you think you may be suffering from heat stroke, first you should move to a cool, shady place and remove any heavy clothing. If you have cool water on hand, try pouring it over your head. You can also soak your clothing in water and place it over your ankles, wrists, and neck. Of course, drink plenty of water too.

Dehydration

Dehydration is defined as the loss of water in the body and can come with a range of unpleasant symptoms. Headache, weakness, dizziness, cramps, confusion, and passing out all come with dehydration. If left untreated, it can become even more severe.

Dehydration is best prevented rather than treated. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you plan on spending time outside. Drink eight glasses of water a day at minimum, and more if you need it.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion works just like you might guess–if you spend too much time in the heat, without rest or water, you’ll soon grow tired. Though heat exhaustion also comes with dizziness, headache, nausea, cold or clammy skin, a fast pulse, and muscle cramps. It can be a serious problem if you can’t access a cool, shady spot quickly.

To treat heat exhaustion, move to a cool, shady spot as soon as possible. Also, drink as much cool water as possible. If you don’t feel better, call 911.

Heat Syncope

Syncope is the medical term for fainting, so heat syncope is a condition of fainting caused by heat. Of course, it can be a serious problem, as it will likely leave you out in the heat, without the shade and hydration your body desperately needs. 

If you start to feel dizzy in the heat, find a shady spot nearby and put your feet up. Don’t try walking in the sun again until you have fully recovered your faculties.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin condition caused by excessive sweating. It’s easy to spot, leaving clusters of red blisters all over your body, similar to pimples. The way you can tell heat rash from many other rashes is that it comes with a prickly feeling.

To treat heat rash, make sure to bathe regularly, and keep the infected area as dry as possible the rest of the time. Avoid heat and sun as much as possible.

Sun Exposure

Sun exposure is the medical term for sunburn, which most of us have experienced at one point or another. Mild cases leave patches of red, stinking skin, while more serious cases of sun exposure cause blisters and peeling skin. The most severe cases o sun exposure can even lead to fever and nausea.

Sunscreen is the best way to prevent sun exposure if you’re going outdoors on a sunny day. Stick with SPF 15 or higher, as it offers the best protection. Protective clothing can go a long way too but don’t forget to stay cool in the process. If you’re already suffering from sunburn, apply lotion, take cool showers, and stay out of the sun.

Heatwave Safety for Seniors is a Must!

Summer has plenty of fun to offer seniors, and there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it for yourself, as long as you stay informed and safe. If you think you’re at risk of any of the conditions described above, make sure to take the appropriate steps to stay healthy. Otherwise, simple preventative strategies can go a long way toward making the most out of summer.

Jessica Hegg
Jessica Hegg

Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.



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