The Stress of Hot Weather on the Elderly

Aging adults are more likely to experience the effects of hot weather than younger adults. Physically, older adults cannot adjust to significant changes in temperature as can younger adults.

Combined with this are the effects of prescription drugs which also reduce the body’s ability to adjust to temperature changes.

The effects of too much heat

Heat-related illnesses that older people may experience include heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is the most serious illness caused by extreme heat.

Symptoms of heat stroke include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Tips for preventing heat-related illnesses

Prevention is critical to protecting your health. Here are tips to safeguard your health during the hot weather:

  • Drink more fluids. It’s very important to keep hydrated. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your physician limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, check with him on how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar. These types of liquids make you lose more body fluid.
  • Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned room. If your home does not have air conditioning, visit a shopping mall or public library. You can also contact your local health department to find out if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Electric fans may offer some comfort. However, when the temperature reaches the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or spending time in an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Wear clothing that is lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting.
  • Visit adults at risk twice a day or more. Watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke

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