The calendar indicates that September is just around the corner but that doesn’t mean cooler weather is just a week away. It’s still very hot outside and high temperatures can be very stressful on all of us but even more so for our elderly. The elderly are less adaptable to high temperatures and therefore more likely to suffer from hyperthermia or heat exhaustion. Further, high temperatures can easily escalate certain medical conditions and some medications may cause dehydration during periods of high temperatures. In the case of the body reaching temperatures of 104 or greater, heat stroke becomes a serious risk! So what precautions should the elderly take to avoid heat related illnesses?
Here are some tips to avoid heat related illnesses:
- Stay cool! Sounds simple but staying cool may be difficult if you don’t have air conditioning. Try wearing light weight and loose fitting clothing.
- Avoid going out in the middle of the day and limit your physical activities. Perform chores and run errands in early morning or late afternoon.
- Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to stay hydrated and avoid too much caffeine.
- Cover your windows to block the sun and its heat.
- Use fans to circulate the air but avoid sitting directly in front as of the fan as that may cause dehydration.
- Take frequent, cool showers to keep your body temperature down.
- Seek shade and rest often if you must be outside.
- Spend time at a community center or mall that has air conditioning.
- Consult with your physician or pharmacist regarding medication and dehydration.
- Know the warning signs of heat related illnesses.
- Run appliances that cause heat such as the oven, stove, clothes dryer or iron only in the early morning or late afternoon.
Traveling can be a hassle any time but especially when the weather is very hot. However, it may be worth the trip if you have relatives that have air conditioning and someone who can help keep an eye on you and your health. If you live alone or even with your spouse, make sure you have a friend stay in touch with you to make sure you are doing alright as you fight this hot weather. If you have an elderly parent or friend, check on them often and visit whenever possible. It’s easier to notice signs of heat related illnesses when you see someone as opposed to speaking on the phone. Also, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of heat illnesses and always error on the side of caution if you feel medical treatment is advisable.
Warning Signs of Heat Exhaustion:
- Excess and heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Dizziness or fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
Warning Signs of Heat Stroke:
- Extremely high body temperature (above 103° F orally)
- Red, hot and dry skin with no visible signs of sweating
- Throbbing Headache
- Dizziness and Nausea
Knowing these warning signs and acting can help save a life. As I mentioned earlier, error on the side of caution and involve professional medical help early. Anyone who has ever cared for an elderly person also knows many of the above warning signs are common to other issues and the heat can exasperate other issues as well. There are several steps you can take in the event you believe someone is suffering from a heat related illness. The most important is to seek medical treatment—I can’t stress this enough.
What to do if you believe someone is suffering from heat related illness:
- Seek professional medical help!
- Get the individual to a cool shady place.
- Provide cool non alcoholic beverages to drink
- Get them into a cool shower or bath.
- Loosen clothing and remove any excess layers of cloths
Summer may be with us for quite a while so don’t let the date on your calendar trick you into dropping your guard when it comes to heat related illnesses. Enjoy the rest of your summer but please take care of yourself and your elderly parents!
If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, please leave them in our comment section. We want to hear them. Helping people care for themselves or their loved ones is what we care about.
We look forward to reading yours.