Community Blog

Heat Stroke and Seniors – What you Need to Know

By Debbie Humphrey

I am amazed that this is the first time in quite a while that I have written about this subject, especially considering we live in the bright, sunny, extremely hot state of Florida! That being said, there is no better time for me to address the danger of heat-related illnesses and the elderly.

According to the National Institute on Health [NIH], “As we age, our ability to adequately respond to summer heat can become a serious problem. … Hyperthermia can include heat stroke, heat edema (swelling in your ankles and feet when you get hot), heat syncope (sudden dizziness after exercising in the heat), heat cramps and heat exhaustion.

The NIH lists several factors that could increase your risk of hyperthermia:

-Age-related changes to the skin, such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands

-Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever

-High blood pressure or other conditions that require changes in diet, such as salt-restricted diets

-Reduced sweating, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and certain heart and blood pressure drugs

-Taking several drugs for various conditions

-Being substantially overweight or underweight  

-Drinking alcoholic beverages

-Being dehydrated

Ways to reduce the risk of heat stroke in seniors include:

-Wear lightweight clothes. Loose, light-colored clothing so you won't absorb so much of the sun's rays

-Carry an umbrella. Carry an umbrella, or top your outfit with a hat, to protect yourself from the sun's rays

-STAY HYDRATED! Bring plenty of water or a sports drink, which can replace sodium lost from sweating

-Avoid caffeine. Avoid or limit drinks with caffeine or alcohol, as they can cause dehydration. Remember, if your urine is dark yellow, you're probably not drinking enough liquids

-Plan around peak hours. If you plan to exercise or work in the sun, be sure to do it in the cooler part of the day, before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

-Take it easy on hot days

The symptoms of heat stroke are:

-headache

-dizziness

-confusion, agitation, or disorientation

-feeling sluggish or fatigued

-hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty

-an extremely high temperature

-loss of consciousness

-rapid heart beat

-hallucinations

-vomiting

If you notice these symptoms and suspect a senior is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke:

-Call 911 – Time matters and minutes count!

-Bring the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned, or cooler place. Encourage them to lie down and elevate their feet. If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water and fruit or vegetable juices. NO alcohol or caffeine!

-Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits and groin

-Encourage the person to shower, bathe or sponge-off with cool water, if it is safe to do so

If you know a senior who has suffered a heat stroke or another heat-related illness, Home Helpers® is available 24/7/365, to monitor their condition, perform light housework, run errands, prepare meals, remind about medications, and provide transportation assistance to and from doctor, rehab and therapy appointments. I invite you to check out our new Safe Wheelchair Transport Service, too, with same-day service when available. I am happy to offer whatever resources at my disposal, along with a FREE consultation to discuss and assess your loved one’s specific needs.

Home Helpers® is honored to have received the Provider of Choice 2017 & 2018 awards from Home Care Pulse, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson, and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539

Source: AARP