Preventing Heatstroke in Seniors

by: Maria Licoudis, R.N. & Care Manager

Heat stroke is one of the summer’s most common illnesses. Hot weather can be very dangerous, and the elderly are especially prone to the perils of heat exhaustion. People 65 years and over do not adapt as well to heat and sudden body temperature fluctuations as their younger counterparts. The ability to notice changes in body temperature also decreases with age. Medical conditions and the use of multiple prescription medications also impairs the body’s temperature regulation system, and thereby contributing to dehydration and heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat stroke can include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, anorexia, decreased urinary output
  • Headache, dizziness, paleness
  • Rapid pulse
  • High body temperature or red, hot, dry skin
  • Fatigue, weakness, fainting, visual disturbances
  • Fast and shallow breathing, hyperventilation
  • Kidney failure, seizures, coma

Prevention is the key! Seniors should protect themselves by maintaining adequate fluid hydration, avoiding heat, wearing loose-fitting light cotton clothing and decreasing exertion. In addition, it helps to stay in air conditioned environments, drink cool beverages and decrease or eliminate alcohol. Other strategies include, increasing water intake if you are taking diuretics, decreasing caffeinated drinks, taking cool showers or sponge baths, and remaining indoors. As well, being aware of heat stroke symptoms and having family members and caregivers check in on the elderly often is a must.

As caregivers, if you are suspecting heat stroke/exhaustion, take your client to a shady area or seek an air conditioned environment. If their home is not air conditioned, go to a mall, library or movie theatre. Cool your client rapidly. Sponge them with a cool cloth, have them take a cool shower, offer fluids to drink and sweet or salty snacks. Have them wear light clothing and stop all activity and rest. If after an hour, they do not feel better, seek immediate medical attention. Being aware and taking the necessary precautions to prevent heat stroke is crucial. Replenishing fluids and staying cool indoors during very hot days will help regulate client temperature during the hot summer months.

Note: This information is for informative purposes only. Always check with a medical professional.

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