Elderly Heatstroke: Why and How to Stay Cool

With summer temperatures hitting upwards of 100 degrees, elderly people run the risk of suffering from heatstroke and other health complications. In fact, a study done at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over the age of 65.

Heat Stroke in the Elderly

Elderly people, people age 65 years and older, face a higher risk of developing heatstroke in hot weather. Heatstroke is a health condition in which the body overheats and has the inability to cool down. There are many different signs to look for in order to tell if someone’s body is entering a stage of heatstroke.

Here are 5 subtle symptoms of heatstroke:

-Rapid Pulse. Rapid pulse usually coincides with heatstroke because the body works hard trying to bring the body back to a normal temperature. Many seniors already have a quicker heartbeat called tachycardia, due to medications they’re on. Rapid heartbeat can also be caused by overactive thyroid, dehydration, or anxiety.

-Dizziness. There are many reasons why elderly people can experience dizziness such as, vertigo, cardiovascular disease, medication side effects, and inner ear issues. Anyone taking care of seniors should pay close attention to dizziness, as it is common and easily confused for something else.

-Headaches. Headaches are common in all ages. Geriatric headaches can be a result of dehydration, lack of sleep, chronic migraines, jaw and denture problems, and many more.

-Lack of sweating. The sweat glands of an elderly person work much differently than those of a young person. They often shrink with age, making them less sensitive to temperature changes and harder to self-regulate. Since seniors sweat less even while being healthy, it’s an important symptom of heat stroke that can be overlooked.

-Disorientation. The hot weather can create a sense of discomfort and confusion, so caregivers and family members should pay attention to their senior to see if he or she is feeling disoriented, as it could be symptomatic of a heatstroke.

Preventing Heatstroke

-Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration —remember that alcoholic and caffeinated beverages contribute to a person’s dehydration.

-Wear appropriate clothing. Make sure to wear lightweight clothing in the summertime with a wide-brimmed hat. This can also be beneficial in preventing further sun damage to the face; a 2-for-1!

-Pay attention to the heat index. When there’s a high percentage of moisture and humidity in the air, our bodies lose the ability to properly sweat, and sweating helps to bring bodies back to a comfortable temperature. The daily heat index can be found on local weather news sources, and is an accurate depiction of how the weather actually feels. If it’s a high heat index for the day, try to stay inside.

-Make sure your sleeping quarters are properly air-conditioned. Most homes are air conditioned already; however, making sure it's working properly is important.

Summertime is special time of year, but let's make sure we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from dehydration.

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