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Health Tips: Heat Stroke and Exhaustion in the Elderly

The temperatures across the United States continue to rise, and as the weather gets warmer, it’s important that your loved one stays cool.

Hot weather can be dangerous for anyone. But for the elderly in particular, its effects can be damaging.

According to a study conducted by the University of Chicago Medical Center, 40 percent of heat-related fatalities in the United States were among people over the age of 65.

As a person ages, their vulnerability to heat increases as the ability to notice changes in body temperature begins to decrease. Additionally, there are many medications on the market that can make a person more susceptible to dehydration –contributing factors to heat exhaustion and stroke.

Let’s start with the less severe of the heat-related illnesses: heat exhaustion. This can occur after a prolonged period of exposure to high temperatures and insufficient replenishment of fluids.

The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Breathing becomes fast and shallow
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pale complexion
  • Pulse is fast and weak
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness

Heat stroke is a heat-related illness that develops when a person’s body becomes unable to control and regulate its temperature. If a person is suffering from heat stroke, the body’s temperature increases rapidly, they lose the ability to sweat and their body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke can lead to permanent disability or even death if emergency treatment isn’t provided.

Below are the warning signs of heat stroke:

  • An exceptionally high body temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Red, hot and dry skin (no signs of sweating)
  • Throbbing headache

You can help your elderly loved one avoid experiencing these heat-related illnesses with these prevention tips:

  • Drink lots of fluids, namely cool, nonalcoholic beverages
  • Do not engage in strenuous activities
  • Get ample amounts of rest
  • If possible, remain in air conditioned environments for as long as possible to keep the body’s temperature regulated
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • Wear lightweight clothing

If you notice any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, you could be dealing with a life-threatening illness. Call for medical assistance immediately; any delay in calling for emergency help could potentially be fatal.

Sources:

http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/older-adults-heat.asp

http://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/elderly-heat-stroke

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