For most people, the summertime season means trips to the beach, pool parties, barbecues and long summer nights. For others, particularly older adults, summer can be a much tougher time.
As we grow older, regulating our body temperature becomes more difficult and we fail to adjust well to changes in temperature. The result is an increased risk for heatstroke among seniors.
Heatstroke is a type of heat injury that occurs when your body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit and is unable to regulate itself. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that can be fatal when not properly treated.
Below is some information about why seniors are more vulnerable to heatstroke and some steps that can be taken to prevent it.
There are a few different reasons why an older adult may be more susceptible to heatstroke.
Sweating is a heat-regulating mechanism, and if we’re not sweating, we’re not regulating heat. We don’t sweat as much in old age, which leaves seniors more prone to heat stress in the summer.
Dehydration hits older adults harder than younger individuals. And if your body is dehydrated, it can’t regulate your core temperature as effectively and heatstroke can set in.
There are also certain health factors and lifestyle choices that can increase the likelihood of developing heatstroke, and these factors are more common in adults over the age of 65. These include:
● Chronic illnesses like heart, lung and kidney diseases
● High blood pressure
● Medications that reduce sweating
● Low-sodium diets
● Lack of access to air-conditioning
● Living or visiting hot climates
● Poor blood circulation
It's important to know the warning signs of heatstroke in seniors so you can seek medical attention immediately.
Some early warning signs include:
● Muscle cramps
● Excessive sweating
● Muscle cramps
● Dry skin
● Flushed skin
● Rapid pulse
The early signs of heatstroke may lead to a more severe case, so it's important to take action as soon as you notice any signs. More serious symptoms include confusion, nausea, fainting, vomiting, seizures and even coma.
Perhaps the biggest problem with heat stroke is that many older adults may not even notice their body is overheating until they start feeling ill. The good news is that there are a few ways to reduce your chances of heat stroke.
● Pay close attention to your body if you’re out in the heat. If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, immediately lie down in a cool place. Drink cold fluids, take a cool bath, or use cold towels to lower your body temperature.
● When you feel thirsty, your body's ability to regulate heat begins to lessen. Drinking plenty of water or beverages with electrolytes is an excellent way to help prevent dehydration and heatstroke, and be sure to avoid alcohol in the hot summer months.
● Wear loose clothes and don't overdress. When choosing what to wear in the summer, go with light and breathable clothes.
● Keep the house cool and on a regulated temperature or keep a fan running nearby.
Summer should be a season to enjoy, not one that puts you in danger. So take the proper steps and soak up that warm, summer sun in a healthy manner.
Contributed by: Christian Worstell
Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.