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  • Writer's pictureNikita Chand

Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Older Adult Population

Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Older Adult Population

The summer heat is here and people are finding all sort of creative ways to stay cool during the day and night.

A special population that requires additional consideration during these months is our senior population. Older adults have a diminished temperature regulation ability as they age, and therefore makes it more challenging to stay cool during periods of hotter weather. Excessive heat can lead to heat exhaustion. Left untreated can result in dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and even more serious such as death. Heat exhaustion can also lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition that occurs when your core body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention to prevent permanent damage to your brain and other vital organs that can result in death. There are a few reasons why seniors need more attention during hot weather to prevent complications. 1. Their bodies don’t adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature 2. Chronic medical conditions can change their body responses to heat. 3. Prescription medicines can impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature or could actually prevent sweating. We must pay particular attention to individuals who are unable to vocalize overheating, such as those that have dementia, depression, delirium, comatose, spinal or brain injury, bed bound patients, intellectual and developmental disability.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Dizziness, headache and confusion.

  • Loss of appetite and nausea

  • Sweating and pale, clammy skin.

  • Muscle weakness and cramping in the arms, legs and stomach.

  • Increase breathing rate and/or pulse

  • A body temperature of 38C or above.

  • Increased thirst

With some extra attention we can effectively address this problem of heat stroke by implementing strategies to prevent heat exhaustion in our senior population. Here are some tips that can be easily added to your work.

  1. Rest in a cool place. Getting into an air-conditioned building is best, but at the very least, find a shady spot or sit in front of a fan

  2. The average—and safe—room temperature for an elderly person is around 78 degrees, according to research published in Age and Aging. To prevent an elderly person from becoming too cold, it’s recommended the room temperature never drops below 65 degrees.

  3. Drink cool fluids frequently. Stick to water or electrolyte drinks

  4. Eat cooler foods like salads and pasta salad instead of hot meals like oven roasted meals.

  5. Try cooling measures, try a cold blanket

  6. Loosen clothing, wear breathable clothing

  7. Close blinds and curtains during the day

  8. Place a cool washcloth on the back of the neck and a pan of cool water close by to periodically re-cool the towel.

  9. Sit with feet in a pan of cool (but not too cold) water

  10. Remove excessive bed sheets during day and night

  11. Shower, bathe, or sponge off with cool water.

  12. Visit your doctor or go to an emergency room if you don’t cool down quickly.

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