Heat stroke in seniors is deadly
In hot weather, heat stroke in seniors is a serious risk.
Older bodies are less sensitive to changes in temperature and can’t adjust as well. So, seniors might not even notice that they’re overheating – until they become ill.
And chronic health conditions and common medications, like beta blockers for high blood pressure, also make it harder for the body to respond to heat.
We explain what heat stroke is and share 6 tips to prevent your older adult from overheating.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke happens when the body overheats, typically to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
It’s a serious condition and requires immediate emergency treatment.
If it’s not treated, heat stroke can damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. Plus, the longer it takes to get treatment, the higher the risk for serious complications or death.
6 ways to prevent heat stroke in seniors
1. Understand your older adult’s health conditions
- Check with their doctor to find out if medications or treatments, like diuretics or low-salt diets, could affect the way their bodies regulate temperature.
- Ask if there are special things you need to do if you see signs of heat stroke. For example, common remedies like sports drinks or lots of water could be harmful for some seniors.
2. Identify heat stroke symptoms for fast treatment
- Print this one-page handout from the Arizona Department of Health Services so you’ll know how to to spot the signs of heat stroke.
- If your older adult shows signs of overheating, use the handout to evaluate symptoms and respond immediately.
- If they are overheating, call 911 or their doctor to get professional medical attention as soon as possible. In the meantime, try to cool them down using the treatment methods listed.
3. Encourage water intake and dress for the weather
- Remind your older adult to drink water throughout the day. A body that’s hydrated feels cooler and regulates temperature better. But avoid water that’s too cold, it could cause cramps.
- Convince them to wear as little clothing as possible and make clothes as light, loose, and breathable as possible. If they feel chilly, give them a bath towel to use as a light lap blanket.
4. Stay cool at home
- Keep the house as cool as possible by using inexpensive mylar solar curtains to block out sun and heat.
- Since heat rises, stay on the ground floor or basement of the house. It’s best to avoid the hotter, stuffy upper floors.
- Buy an indoor air conditioning unit or contact a local air conditioning store or chain store like Rent-A-Center to find out if you can rent one.
5. Stay cool outside the house
If the house is too hot, you may need to go somewhere else to keep your older adult cool and comfortable. [Take precautions while Covid-19 is circulating in the community: wear a face mask, try to keep some distance from other people, and use hand sanitizer.]
Senior-friendly places to find air conditioning:
- Relative or friend’s house
- Coffee shop or restaurant
- Shopping mall or stores
- Public library
- Senior center or city recreation center
6. Use caution with electric fans
- Electric fans can trick the body into thinking it’s cooler than it actually is and can do more harm than good, especially for older adults.
- The CDC recommends using electric fans only when the temperature is below the high 90s. Once the temperature reaches the 90s, it’s better to take a cool shower or bath or use an air conditioner to cool down.