Throughout the long, cold winter, we eagerly anticipated the heat of summer. What a relief to finally throw open the windows and let the warm breezes blow through the house! However, now that we are into the dog days of summer, it is important to take precautions to make certain older adults in particular stay safe from heat stroke and other heat-related issues.
Why Humidity and Heat Impacts Seniors Differently
We all know that kids can spend hours playing outside during the summertime, almost never breaking a sweat. Young adults are out gardening, mowing the lawn, even exercising in spite of the heat and humidity. For older adults, however, there are physiological differences that noticeably raise the risk for dangerous health conditions as soon as the weather gets hot. Poor circulation, inefficient sweat glands, chronic illnesses, medications, and much more are common in aging, and may bring about:
- Heat stroke
- Heat edema
- Heat syncope
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
- And more
Signs to Watch for
Be on the lookout for these symptoms whenever an older adult you love spends time in warmer temperatures:
- A body temperature higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit (indicating heat stroke)
- Confusion, agitation, along with other behavioral changes
- Delirium or coma
- Flushed, dry skin
- A rapid, strong pulse
- Lack of sweating
How to Help
As soon as you notice any of these warning signs, the individual needs prompt medical attention. Call 911 and have the senior lie down in a cooler environment. Place a cool, damp cloth on the older adult’s wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. If possible, have the older person sip on juice or water, but nothing with alcohol or caffeine. A spray bottle full of cold water may also be used to mist him or her.
The most effective plan of action, however, is prevention. Following these guidelines can help seniors safely enjoy the summertime:
- Stay in an air-conditioned environment whenever possible, particularly during the hottest parts of the day. Outdoor activities can be scheduled during the early morning or evening.
- Make sure the senior stays hydrated. Plain water as well as carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages (like Gatorade) are recommended.
- When outdoors, look for shaded locations and avoid over-exertion.
- Wear light-colored clothing in breathable materials, such as cotton or linen, along with a wide-brimmed hat.
- Always wear sunscreen.
- Make sure older adults are drinking plenty of fluids
- Take care of housework, meal preparation, and other chores around the home
- Provide transportation to fun, air-conditioned excursions such as museums, the mall, as well as the library
- Engage in enjoyable activities in the home, such as arts and crafts and favorite interests and hobbies
- And so much more