Throughout the long, cold winter, we enthusiastically looked forward to 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 in the midst of the dog days of summer, it is critical to take precautions and know the warning signs of heat exhaustion in the elderly.
Why Heat & Humidity Impacts Seniors Differently
We all know that children can spend hours playing outside in the summer, hardly breaking a sweat. Young adults are out mowing the lawn, gardening, even exercising in spite of the heat and humidity. For seniors, however, there are physiological differences that significantly increase the risk for dangerous health problems when the weather heats up. Poor circulation, inefficient sweat glands, chronic illnesses, medications, and much 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
Keep an eye out for these symptoms whenever an older adult you love spends time in the heat and humidity:
- A body temperature higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit (indicating heat stroke)
- Confusion, agitation, and other behavioral changes
- Delirium or coma
- Flushed, dry skin
- A rapid, strong pulse
- Lack of sweating
How to Help
As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, the senior needs prompt medical attention. Call 911 and have the individual lay down in a cooler environment. Place a cool, damp cloth on the senior’s wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. If at all possible, have the senior sip on water or juice, but nothing with alcohol or caffeine. A spray bottle full of cool water may also be used to mist him or her.
The best course of action, however, is prevention. Following these tips will 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 should be scheduled for the early morning or evening.
- Ensure the older adult remains hydrated. Plain water in addition to carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages (like Gatorade) are best.
- When outdoors, seek out shaded locations and avoid over-exertion.
- Choose light-colored clothing in breathable materials, like linen or cotton, coupled with a wide-brimmed hat.
- Always wear sunscreen.
- Make sure older adults are drinking plenty of fluids
- Take care of housework, meal preparation, and other chores around the home
- Provide transportation to fun, air-conditioned outings such as the mall, museums, or the library
- Engage in enjoyable activities in the home, such as arts and crafts and favorite hobbies and interests
- And a great deal more
Contact us at 314-432-4312 for a complimentary in-home consultation to learn more about how a trusted caregiver in St. Louis can help a senior you love remain safe this summer, and throughout the year. To learn about each of the communities where we provide our award-winning care, visit our Service Area page.