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I'm Awfully Warm

Seniors Are Susceptible To Heat-Related Illnesses

For most people, when it is hot out, they are uncomfortable. They feel sluggish and perspire. However, excess heat can lead to much more serious problems, especially for people over the age of 65 and infants.

The body constantly strives to keep a balance between how much heat it makes and how much it loses. The brain plays the role of thermostat. However, with age, seniors loss some of their temperature regulating abilities. And it doesn’t have to be 100° to cause a problem.

In addition, seniors maintain less of their body weight in water, and they perspire less. So their cooling system has less margin for error. They may also have health problems (stroke, circulatory diseases, etc.) that affect the body’s retention of fluids and/or restrict the opening of blood vessels. (They may be taking medications that do the same.) All these elements can really mess up one’s ability to keep their cool.

When heat persists, it’s important for seniors to take “cool” precautions - staying indoors, drinking lots of fluids and limiting activities.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion is an illness that may result from too much heat. It is caused by exposure to high temperatures over several days. It also involves the insufficient/unbalanced replacement of fluids.

Heat exhaustion is a signal that the body can no longer keep itself cool. Here are symptoms that you should look for. Be aware, the warning signs vary from person to person.

  • Lots of sweating, skin may be cool.
  • Pulse is fast and weak.
  • Breathing is fast and shallow.
  • Feeling tired or weak.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • A loss of skin color - paleness.
  • Headache.
  • Feeling dizzy or faint, or passing out.
  • Feeling nauseous or actually vomiting.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency! It is the most serious illness that results from too much heat. It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature and cannot cool down.

  • Passing out. (Possibly the first sign.)
  • Pulse become fast and strong.
  • Body temperature rises to 106°F in a short period of time, within 15 minutes.
  • Skin becomes dry. It is also red and hot.
  • NO sweating, even with all the heat.
  • Throbbing headache.
  • Feeling nauseous or actually vomiting.
  • Behavioral change. The person may seem confused, start staggering, be easily agitated, or act peculiarly.
  • Eventually the person can become delirious or slip into a coma. This could lead to a permanent disability or even death.
(Sources: CDC, National Institutes of Health )