Summer hot weather can be a very dangerous time for senior citizens. Of course, their safety is a top priority for caregivers and family members.
Therefore, in view of this past weekends scorching hot weather in the Northeast, with temperatures reaching 110 degrees, the National Institute of Aging (NIA), makes the following recommendations:
Older people can have a tough time dealing with heat and humidity. The temperature inside or outside does not have to reach 100°F (38°C) to put them at risk for a heat-related illness.
Headache, confusion, dizziness, or nausea could be a sign of a heat-related illness. Go to the doctor or an emergency room to find out if you need treatment.
To keep heat-related illnesses from becoming a dangerous heat stroke, remember to:
- Get out of the sun and into a cool place—air-conditioning is best.
- Drink fluids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine. Water and fruit or vegetable juices are good choices.
- Shower, bathe, or sponge off with cool water.
- Lie down and rest in a cool place.
- Visit your doctor or go to an emergency room if you don’t cool down quickly.
Summer Hot Weather: Why Are Seniors Most Vulnerable?
Each year, most people who die from heat stroke are over 50 years old. Health problems that put you at greater risk include:
- Heart or blood vessel problems
- Poorly working sweat glands or changes in your skin caused by normal aging
- Heart, lung, or kidney disease, as well as any illness that makes you feel weak all over or results in a fever
- Conditions treated by drugs, such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and high blood pressure medicines; they can make it harder for your body to cool itself
- Taking several prescription drugs can overheat your body on a very hot day. Stay indoors
- Being very overweight or underweight
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Coffee and tea are diuretics. This means they flush water out of your system. Older people take longer to realize they’re thirsty.
Learn How Seniors Can Lower Their Risk
Since senior citizens are the most vulnerable age group to scorching high temperatures, the NIA recommends these strategies:
- Drink plenty of liquids, such as water or fruit or vegetable juices. Stay away from drinks containing alcohol or caffeine. If your doctor has told you to limit your liquids, ask what you should do when it is very hot.
- If you live in a home or apartment without fans or air conditioning, try to keep your house as cool as possible. Limit your use of the oven. Keep your shades, blinds, or curtains closed during the hottest part of the day. Open your windows at night.
- If your house is hot, try to spend time during mid-day some place that has air conditioning—for example, go to the shopping mall, movies, library, senior center, or a friend’s house.
- If you need help getting to a cool place, ask a friend or relative. Some religious groups, senior centers, and Area Agencies on Aging provide this service. If necessary, take a taxi or call for senior transportation. Don’t stand outside in the heat waiting for a bus.
- Dress for the weather. Some people find natural fabrics, such as cotton, to be cooler than synthetic fibers.
- Don’t try to exercise or do a lot of activities outdoors when it’s hot.
- Avoid crowded places when it’s hot outside. Plan trips during non-rush-hour times.