For older folks, the summer heat might present unique health hazards. Elderly persons can benefit from some guidance provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the National Institutes of Health, on how to prevent hyperthermia-related disorders. A person who has hyperthermia has an excessively high body temperature as a result of their body's inability to regulate its internal temperature in response to external heat sources. Commonly recognized forms of hyperthermia include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat syncope is rapid lightheadedness following prolonged exposure to heat. The interaction of environmental factors including temperature, general health, and personal lifestyle can raise the risk for certain illnesses.
Lifestyle variables can include inadequate hydration, living in a home without air conditioning, being immobile and unable to access transportation, clothing inappropriately, going to crowded areas, and failing to recognize how to react to hot weather circumstances. On hot, humid days, especially when an air pollution advisory is in effect, older persons should stay inside, especially those with chronic medical conditions. Going to locations with air conditioning, such senior centers, shopping centers, movie theaters, and libraries, is advised for those without air conditioners. Another choice is cooling facilities, which may be established by neighborhood public health departments, religious organizations, and social assistance agencies in many towns.
The following health-related variables, some of which are particularly prevalent in older persons, may raise the risk of hyperthermia:
- Being thirsty.
- Changes brought on by aging in the skin, such as poor blood flow and ineffective sweat glands.
- Disorders of the heart, lungs, and kidneys, as well as any condition that results in widespread sluggishness or fever.
- High blood pressure or other ailments that necessitate dietary adjustments. People on diets low in sodium, for instance, may be at higher risk. However, you shouldn't use salt pills without first talking to your doctor.
- reduced sweating brought on by pharmaceuticals such diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and specific blood pressure and cardiac medications.
- using a variety of medications for various ailments. However, it's crucial to keep taking your prescribed medicine and talk to your doctor about any potential issues.
- either being severely overweight or underweight
- consuming alcoholic drinks
A potentially fatal form of hyperthermia is heat stroke. When the body is overheated and unable to regulate its temperature, it happens. A person experiences a heat stroke when their body temperature rises significantly (typically above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and they exhibit symptoms like mental status changes (like confusion or hostility), a rapid, strong pulse, no sweating, flushed, dry skin, dizziness, staggering, or even a coma. Anyone exhibiting any of these symptoms should seek emergency medical assistance right once, especially an older adult.
If you have reason to believe someone is unwell from the heat:
- Get the person out of the heat and into a cool area, such as one that is shaded or air-conditioned. Encourage them to recline.
- Call 911 if you have any suspicions about heat stroke.
- Encourage the person to take a cool water shower, bathe, or sponge off.
- Apply a cool, moist cloth to the groin, armpits, neck, and wrists. The cold cloths can assist in cooling the blood in these areas when it passes near to the skin's surface.
- Offer fluids like water and fruit and vegetable juices if the patient can consume them safely; stay away from alcohol and caffeine.