Heat Precautions for Seniors


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Last week marked the official start of summer, but the warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing for some time now indicate that summer has in fact been here all along.

When the temperature is high, heat exhaustion and heat stroke become concerns for seniors. As we age, our bodies have  a harder time regulating body temperature. In addition, certain medications can make seniors more susceptible to the heat.

Heat exhaustion is a warning sign that the body is becoming overheated. Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps and nausea.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal. It occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature and the physical body temp begins to rise. Signs of heat stroke are more serious, and include high body temp, dry skin, rapid pulse and altered mental status.

If you are caring for a senior, here are a few tips for helping he or she deal with the heat, and stay safe:

  • Keep a glass of water in every room to quickly and easily access fluids.  Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Go through the closet and remove all heavy materials, long sleeves and dark colors.  Store them until fall.
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day.  Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.
  • Save household chores, particularly washing and drying clothes and operating the dishwasher, for evenings, when the weather is cooler.
  • Take a nap during high heat times – between 3 and 5 p.m. in the afternoon, for instance – or find a good television program or movie to watch.
  • Keep shades down and blinds pulled.  Keeping a house tightly closed is more energy efficient.
  • Eat light.  Foods like proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Take it easy! Physical activity during extremely hot weather can put unnecessary stress on your heart.
  • When it’s hot out, avoid alcohol. It acts as a diuretic and causes the body to lose water.
  • Wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or carry an umbrella to protect your head and neck when you are outdoors.

With a few safety precautions, we can all stay cool and perhaps even enjoy the dog days of summer!

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