With summer upon us, many people revel in the outdoors. Young and old alike love to spend time in the sun. However, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses pose a danger to many, but especially to seniors. What can you do to prevent heatstroke and what are some of the signs of heat-related illnesses?
How to Avoid Heatstroke
Elders are more susceptible to heatstroke due to many factors: the medication they take my cause dehydration, underlying health conditions may make them less adept to deal with heat, and as they increase in age, their ability to recognize changes in their body temperature lessens. Here are some tips on how to keep seniors safe on those hot summer days: Drink plenty of liquids. Stick with water and juices, and avoid coffee or other caffeinated drinks as caffeine contributes to dehydration.
- Wear appropriate clothes. Fashion and function can go hand in hand. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothes that are flowy, and jazz it up with a wide brim hat.
- Stay indoors during mid-day hours. This is the hottest time of the day, so try to schedule your plans before and/or after the middle of the day.
- Take it easy. If you feel that you or an aging loved one may be getting tired of over-heated, don’t take any risks. Slow down, drink some water, and get to where it is cooler.
- Watch the heat index. Watching the heat index will help you gauge how the weather really will feel. Check local weather sites, channels or radio stations to stay up to date.
- Seek air-conditioned environments. If your aging loved one does not have air conditioning in their home, have them spend time during extreme heat in places that have air conditioning. Local malls, libraries, movie theaters or cafes are good places to start.
- Know the signs of heatstroke. The more you know about the signs of heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses, the better prepared you will be to deal with them.
Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses
Heatstroke is usually a combination of milder heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or fainting. Dehydration also plays a factor in adding to the likelihood of heatstroke. The definite sign of a heat stroke is a core body temperature of 104 degrees, but fainting will usually occur first. Some other signs of heatstroke to be on the watch for include:
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot, and dry skin
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
In the event that you or someone you know does suffer from a heat-related illness, it is important to immediately get out of the heat, preferably in an air-conditioned room, and rest. Drink plenty of fluids, remove constrictive clothing, and take measures to cool yourself externally, like with a fan or ice towel. If you notice that the condition does not improve within 15 minutes, seek immediate medical attention.
Summertime is for relaxing and having fun, but we all should take the time to make sure it is safe as well. Remember to stay hydrated and don’t let the heat get to you.