How Does Heat Affect Senior People?
We have all felt overwhelmed and suffocated in the summer heat. But for senior people, hot, humid weather can be more than just uncomfortable. It can be harmful to health, even deadly.
Most of the people who die each year from heat-related problems are over 50, according to statistics from various national institutes that study senior adults and their health.
Seniors at Risk
Normally, the body cools itself by sweating, but several things can limit that ability, including changes related to aging. That’s why senior people are among those most at risk for heat-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Age-related issues that can affect a person’s ability to tolerate heat include:
- Physical changes – Age-related skin changes or malfunctioning sweat glands can make it hard for senior people to sweat and cool down. Also, senior people may not feel hot even when temperatures are high, or may not feel thirsty when they need water.
- Health problems – Some of the health conditions that are more common among senior people can increase the risk of heat-related problems. Examples include heart, lung or kidney disease, bad circulation; or being overweight or underweight.
- Medicines – Diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, or medicines to treat heart problems or high blood pressure can make it hard for the body to cool down.
Help Seniors Beat the Heat
There are alternatives to ensure that older people can protect themselves from the heat. Especially when temperatures exceed 80 degrees.
- Air conditioning – According to the CDC, air conditioning is the best way to keep out the heat. Being in an air-conditioned environment for even a couple of hours a day will help older adults.
- Stay hydrated – In hot weather, an older adult will need at least the recommended amount of fluids per day, if not more. You should not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Water, fruit or vegetable juices, or sports drinks that contain electrolytes are the best choices, without being too cold and low in sugar. It should also be taken into account if a low-fluid diet is not followed.
- Showering – Taking a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath will help cool down older adults.
- Dress for the weather – Wearing light, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing is a great help for older adults so that they do not feel the heat so aggressively.
- Extra protection – If you have to be outdoors, it is good for older adults to wear a hat and sunscreen to avoid sunburn, although it will also help to stay out of the sun, in places that provide shade.
- Avoid strenuous walks – Avoiding long walks or other strenuous activities, especially during the hottest part of the day, will help keep you out of the sun and heat, as well as prevent dehydration.
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