Throughout the entire 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! Yet now that we are getting into the dog days of summer, it is important to take preventative measures and familiarize ourselves with common heat-related illness symptoms in older adults in order to keep them safe all season long.
Why Heat & Humidity Impacts Seniors Differently
We know that kids can spend hours playing outside in the summertime, almost never breaking a sweat. Young adults are out mowing the lawn, gardening, even jogging despite the high temperature. For seniors, however, there are physiological differences that noticeably increase the risk for dangerous health issues once the weather heats up. Poor circulation, chronic illnesses, inefficient sweat glands, medications, and more are not unusual in aging, and can 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 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
In the event that you notice any of these symptoms, the individual needs immediate medical attention. Call 911 and have the person 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 person sip on juice or water, but nothing with alcohol or caffeine. A spray bottle full of cool water may also be used to mist your senior loved one.
The most effective plan of action, however, is prevention. Following these suggestions can help older adults safely enjoy the summer season:
- Stay in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Outdoor activities can be planned for the early morning or evening.
- Make sure the older adult 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, combined with a wide-brimmed hat.
- Always wear sunscreen.
Morning Glory Home Care, providers of award-winning home health care in Alton, IL and nearby areas, is here to help make the warm weather safe and enjoyable for older adults. We can:
- Make sure older adults are drinking plenty of fluids
- Take care of meal preparation, housework, along with other chores around the home
- Provide transportation to enjoyable, air-conditioned excursions such as the mall, museums, or the library
- Engage in pleasant activities in the home, such as arts and crafts and favorite hobbies and interests
- And much more