Heatstroke (or hyperthermia) occurs when the body’s temperature rises to dangerous levels and can result in death or permanent brain damage if not treated immediately. The elderly are especially susceptible to heatstroke because they’re more likely to suffer from heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes than younger people, and those conditions can affect their body’s ability to cool itself down. Older people also experience an increased risk of dehydration and circulatory problems that can exacerbate the onset of heatstroke and delay treatment. Here are some top ways you can help prevent heat stroke in the elderly.
Be Aware of the Health Conditions of Your Loved Ones
Older adults often have a number of medical conditions, including chronic diseases and hypertension. Both can increase their risk for heat stroke, particularly if they’re on medication. People who have a condition called autonomic dysfunction are at a higher risk of developing heat-related illnesses like hyperthermia because their body’s responses to external stimuli (like hot weather) aren’t as responsive as they used to be. Medications that interfere with sweating or impair cognitive function also increase your loved one’s risk for heat stroke.
Identify the Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke for Fast Treatment
Some signs to take note of are fatigue, dizziness, disorientation, muscle cramps, and nausea/vomiting. If these happen, don’t take medications that make you drowsy or lower your body temperature, like diuretics. Instead, hydrate with water frequently. If you have trouble staying hydrated or want to avoid frequent trips to a bathroom, consider drinking sports drinks because they replenish electrolytes and water.
Wear Appropriate Clothing and Drink Water
The elderly need to maintain a well-hydrated state. Heat exhaustion is especially dangerous in hot weather when higher heart rates and changes in metabolism can increase a person’s risk. When going outdoors, be sure to dress appropriately and keep hydrated by drinking water or an electrolyte-infused beverage. Avoid caffeinated beverages since caffeine causes you to lose more fluids through urination.
Don’t Get Overheated
Dress your loved ones for the weather and take breaks from any activity that causes them to sweat excessively. Also, check on your loved ones often while they’re outside; if they’re looking pale or their speech is slurred, get them indoors and cool down immediately.
Stay Cool at Home
Turn on your air conditioner or ceiling fan to help lower the temperature indoors. If you don’t have central air, place a cool-mist humidifier in your room to cool down your body. Wear loose, lightweight clothing that won’t trap heat against your skin. Wear a hat and keep it light-colored; darker colors attract more heat and make you feel hotter than lighter colors.
Alcohol not only dehydrates you but also impairs bodily functions like sweating, meaning that even if you stay indoors and avoid overheating, drinking too much alcohol could still put you at risk for heat stroke.
Use Caution with Electric Fans
When you turn on an electric fan, it creates a cool breeze. But if you’re not careful, it can quickly create a dangerous wind chill that causes hypothermia and heat stroke. Electric fans don’t just blow air; they suck air into and out of your home. If you use an electric fan during hot weather, keep windows and doors closed as much as possible to keep out hot air and keep in cooler air. If your house is really stuffy or warm, open up all your windows before turning on your fan so that there’s some cross-ventilation. Close up as soon as you turn off the fan!