The In's and Out's, Do's and Dont's of Heat Exhaustion in the Elderly

The dog days of summer are here!  Temperatures are rising and we are spending more and more of our time outdoors.  While enjoying outdoor activities this summer, it is important that we keep  some key safety tips in mind so that a potential medical emergency can be avoided.

Heat exhaustion is defined as a mild form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures combined with inadequate fluid intake/replacement.  Heat stroke is a more serious heat-related illness and occurs when the body becomes unable to control it’s temperature. 

Elderly adults (aged 65 and over) are more vulnerable to heat stress for several reasons.  Studies have shown that elderly people do not adjust as well as younger people to sudden changes in temperature and may have chronic medical conditions that change their normal body response to heat.   Some of the warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:

-           Heavy sweating

-           Paleness

-           Muscle cramps/soreness

-           Fatigue//feeling tired

-           Weakness

-           Dizziness

-           Headaches

-           Nausea/vomiting

-           Fainting

-           Skin may be cool and moist

-           Pulse rate may be fast and weak

-           Breathing may be fast and shallow


Listed below are ways to prevent a heat stroke/ exhaustion:

-          drinks plenty of cool, non-alchoholic beverages

-          rest

-          take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath

-          if possible, seek an air-conditioned environment

-          wear lightweight clothing

-          remain indoors during the hottest part of the day if possible

-          do not engage in strenuous activities

If you have elderly relatives or neighbors, you can help them by visiting them regularly and checking for signs of heat  stress or exhaustion, encourage them to drink plenty of fluids, and provide transportation for them to get to an air conditioned areas if they are homebound.  If you discover someone is experiencing problems due to heat related issues, please help them get too a shady area, cool them down by whatever means possible, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

By planning ahead and being prepared, you and your loved ones can enjoy a fun-filled summer without the risk of heat related emergencies.  Here’s to you and a fabulous summer of fun, family, and memories!