Each winter, we all look forward to the return of the warmth of summer. What a relief to finally throw open the windows and allow the warm breezes to blow through the house! However, now that we are into the dog days of summer, it’s necessary to take precautions and familiarize ourselves with the signs of heat-related illness to ensure older adults in particular stay safe.
Why Heat Impacts Seniors Differently
We know that children can spend hours playing outside during the summer, hardly breaking a sweat. Young adults are out gardening, mowing the lawn, even jogging in spite of the heat. For seniors, however, there are physiological differences that dramatically raise the risk for dangerous health conditions when the weather gets hot. Poor circulation, chronic illnesses, inefficient sweat glands, medications, and much more are typical in aging, and can bring on:
- Heat stroke
- Heat edema
- Heat syncope
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
- And more
Signs of Heat-Related Illness to Watch for
Watch out for these symptoms whenever a senior you love spends time in the heat and humidity:
- A body temperature over 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
If you notice any of these warning signs, the senior needs prompt medical attention. Call 911 and have the individual lie down in a cooler environment. Place a cool, damp cloth on the senior’s neck, wrists, armpits, and groin. When possible, have the senior sip on water or juice, but nothing with caffeine or alcohol. A spray bottle containing chilled water may also be used to mist the senior.
The best course of action, however, is prevention. Following these recommendations can help older adults safely enjoy the summer:
- Stay in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible, especially through the hottest parts of the day. Outdoor activities should be scheduled during the morning hours or evening.
- Be sure the senior stays hydrated. Plain water as well as carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages (like Gatorade) are best.
- When outside, 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 meal preparation, housework, and other chores around the home
- Provide transportation to fun, air-conditioned outings such as museums, the mall, or the library
- Engage in enjoyable activities in the home, such as arts and crafts and favorite hobbies and interests
- And much more
Email or call us at 361-643-2323 for a complimentary in-home consultation and for more information on our award-winning elder care in Portland and surrounding communities. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.