The hot days of summer are here, and while it can feel great to soak up some sun, too hot days can create a real risk for those 65 and older. There are a few reasons for this:
- As we age, our bodies don’t adjust as quickly to sudden changes in temperature.
- Pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure and heart and lung disease can upset the body’s normal response to heat.
- Those in this age group are more likely to be taking regular medications, some of which can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
Whether you personally are at an increased risk for heat stroke or heat exhaustion, or you have a family member, friend or neighbour who might be, here is what you should watch for and how to respond.
Symptoms of heat-related illnesses
- Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. It looks like a cluster of red pimples or small blisters and may be visible on the neck and upper chest and in the elbow creases.
Heat rash can be treated by moving to a cooler, less humid environment, drying the affected area and applying unscented talcum powder. Avoid ointments and creams because they keep the skin warm and moist.
- Dizziness and fainting due to heat are the results of reduced blood flow to the brain. Instead, blood flow increases to the skin and pools in the legs, and that can lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure. You may experience light-headedness before fainting.
If someone is feeling dizzy or light-headed due to the heat, get them to a cooler area and have them lay down. Put a cool cloth over their forehead and have them rehydrate with water.
- Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that can develop into heatstroke. Heat exhaustion comes on due to excessive sweating that reduces the volume of your blood. Warning signs include sweating, paleness, rapid heart rate, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Treatment for heat exhaustion includes removing the person from the heat, getting to a cooler location to lay down, increasing fluid intake, applying damp cloths to the skin, and seeking medical advice.
- Heatstroke is a medical emergency that requires urgent attention. It occurs when the core body temperature rises above 40.5°C (104.9°F) and the body’s internal systems start to shut down. They may appear delirious or confused, stagger, have a fit, or even collapse and become unconscious.
In the case of heatstroke call 911 immediately, get the person into a cooler area and have them lay down. Do not offer any fluids. If the person is unconscious, ensure they are laid on their side and their airway is kept clear.
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By Christine Tompa