Helping older adults keep their cool during heat waves

Summer months bring heat waves with dangerously high temperatures in the weather forecast. During these times it is critical to keep a close eye on individuals who may be more prone to heat-related illnesses, including older adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors are more prone to heat stress due to several reasons, including:

  • Chronic medical conditions that change normal body responses to heat.
  • Prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.
  • Age-related reduction in ability to perspire to regulate body temperature.

Keep a close eye on your older loved ones and neighbors to make sure they are staying hydrated, have access to air conditioning and are not showing signs of heat stress.

To stay cool and hydrated, the CDC recommends that seniors:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If a senior’s home doesn’t have air conditioning, locate an air-conditioned senior center or shelter nearby, or contact your local municipality for a list of cooling centers.
  • Drink more water than usual.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook as it will make homes hotter.
  • Do NOT rely on a fan as a main cooling source.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Click here for additional tips to stay cool: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heattips.html

Heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough, causing a person’s body temperature to rise.

Symptoms of a heat stroke include:

  • High body temperature above 103 F
  • Red, hot and dry skin, but no sweating
  • Rapid strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

If you suspect someone is having a heat stroke, call 9-1-1. After calling for help, get the person to a cool spot and quickly cool him/her down with cool water. Do NOT give the victim any fluids to drink.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Headache

If you suspect a person has heat exhaustion, move him/her to a cool location, loosen clothes and provide water for the person to sip. Get medical help if the person is throwing up, has worsening symptoms or symptoms lasting more than one hour.


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