Friday, 26 July 2019

GUEST POST - Staying Cool: Why Seniors are at a Higher Risk for Heatstroke and How to Prevent it


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.

Why Seniors Get Heatstroke

There are a few different reasons why an older adult may be more susceptible to heatstroke. 

Lack of sweating

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

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.

Health Factors & Lifestyle Choices

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
      Overdressing
      Lack of access to air-conditioning
      Living or visiting hot climates
      Dehydration
      Poor blood circulation
      Obesity

Heat Stroke Warning Signs

It's important to know the warning signs of heatstroke in seniors so you can seek medical attention immediately.

Some early warning signs include:

       Fatigue
       Muscle cramps
       Excessive sweating
       Dizziness
       Headaches
       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.

Preventing Heat Stroke

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
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Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.

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