The risk of heat related problems increases with age. The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, has some advice for helping older people avoid heat problems during the summer months.
A person’s risk for hyperthermia is not based only on the outside temperature. It includes the general health and lifestyle of the individual. Some health factors that may increase risk include:
• age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands.
n heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever.
• high blood pressure or other conditions that require changes in diet. People on salt-restricted diets may increase their risk. However, salt pills should not be used without first consulting a doctor.
• the inability to perspire caused by medications including diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and certain heart and blood pressure drugs.
• being substantially overweigh or underweight.
• being dehydrated.
Lifestyle factors can also increase risk, including extremely hot living quarters, lack of transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places and not understanding weather conditions. Older people particularly those at special risk, should stay indoors on particularly hot and humid days. People without fans or air conditioners should go to places such as shopping malls, movie houses and libraries. Friends or relatives might be asked to supply transportation on particularly hot days.
Heat stroke is especially dangerous for older people and requires emergency medical attention. A person with a body temperature above 104 is likely suffering from heat stroke and have symptoms of confusion, combativeness, strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, faintness, staggering, possible delirium or coma. A person with any of these symptoms, especially an older adult, should seek immediate medical attention.
Here are a few tips on what to do if you suspect someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:
• get the person out of the sun and into an air-conditioned or other cool place.
• offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
• encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water.
• apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrist and/or neck, places where arterial blood passes close to the surface, this can help cool the blood.
• urge the person to lie down and rest, preferably in a cool place.
Right at Home Washington DC
1818 New York Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002
"Improving the quality of life for those we serve"