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Heat Stroke and the Elderly

Signs of Heat Stress in the Elderly

Those over 65 years of age are more susceptible to suffering heat related illnesses during hot weather. What are the risk factors for heat stress in elders and what signs should we look out for to ensure our elderly loved ones receive the care they need during the warmer months?

Those with chronic health conditions or taking certain medications are at increased risk of suffering from heat stress. Living alone is also a risk factor for elders, so it’s important to check in regularly with your elderly loved ones to see how they are faring during hot weather. Those who are frail or immobile are not always able to help themselves during hot weather and rely on others to ensure they are comfortable. When we are older our body isn’t able to cool itself efficiently, as we are less likely to sweat. Some medications combined with general ageing, mean our bodies are less able to regulate temperature effectively.

Signs of heat stress may include the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Fainting
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Decreased urine output/dark urine
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Thirst/dehydration

During periods of hot weather, it’s important to avoid being outdoors as well as participating in strenuous activity. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and limit caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Wear lightweight clothing in breathable fabrics and stay cool by turning on air conditioning, taking a cool shower or using an electric fan. Stay abreast of weather reports and be on high alert for signs of heat stress in elders, particularly when temperatures exceed 30 degrees.

If you are concerned that an elderly loved one is suffering from heat stress, it’s important to try and cool them down as quickly as possible using whatever you have at hand. Get them into a cool shower, sponge them down and/or fan them. Seek medical assistance as quickly as possible.

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