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Protect Your Loved One from Extreme Heat

June 29th, 2018

Managing Body Temp on Hot Days for Seniors

Much of the country is experiencing higher than normal temperatures, and people from California to New England are looking forward to cooler weather. A study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine may provide a good reason for elderly people to celebrate when colder temps return.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the hotter the temperature gets outside, the higher the risk that elderly are admitted into a hospital with respiratory problems.

In the largest study of its kind[1], researchers examined more than 30 percent of the U.S. population aged 65 and older and found that for every 10-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature approximately 30 additional respiratory hospitalizations occurred.  The heat effect was most pronounced on the day the person was exposed to heat, but the risk could linger for more than a day.

During the summer months, high outside temperatures and exposure to direct sunlight will rapidly increase a senior’s body temperature.  When we age, our bodies have difficulty maintaining a ‘normal’ temperature, and the hot summer months compound this situation.  There are three primary reasons why seniors have trouble maintaining a healthy body temperature:

  1. Seniors do not sweat as much as younger adults
  2. Seniors store fat differently which complicates heat regulation inside the body
  3. Seniors dehydrate quicker and hydrate slower

Symptoms of Heat-Related Issues

There are a number of observable symptoms that point to over-heating and may precede the more serious heat stroke.  Symptoms and signs include:

•           Excessive sweating or noticeable skin dryness

•           Tiredness

•           General weakness

•           Dizziness

•           A headache

•           Muscle cramps

Heat exhaustion progresses, new symptoms may appear, such as nausea, vomiting, and fainting.  At this stage, heat stroke can occur within 10 minutes.

Heat stroke is caused when the internal body temperature rises faster than the body can naturally lower it. If there are clear symptoms of heat stroke, call 911.  Heat stroke symptoms include:

•           Extremely high body temperature

•           Absence of sweating

•           Disorientation

•           Seizure or coma

Here’s what you can do to help those suffering from these symptoms: first have the person lie down in a cool place, and, if you can, put a fan directly on that person. Take steps to lower their body temperature by turning on air-conditioning, providing cool (not cold) fluids to drink, and offer them a cooling bath.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734617/

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