Too much heat can harm anyone, but it’s hazardous for older adults. Hyperthermia (when your body temperature rises too high) can put older adults at risk of various health problems, including heat syncope, heat edema, and heat stroke (a medical emergency). In addition, heat and the elderly generally do not mix well.
Here are some hot weather tips from Elder Care Alliance that could save an older adult’s life.
Staying hydrated is essential for older adults in hot weather. In addition to cool water, it’s also important to give older adults electrolytes to replace any they lose through sweat.
Even though people lose the ability to sweat profusely as they age, it is still possible for older adults to lose enough electrolytes through sweat that they require replacement right away. So give your loved one a low-sugar electrolyte powder or tablets rather than the sugar-dense sports drinks at most grocery stores.
Dress Appropriately for Hot Weather
Senior adults often have sensitive skin that needs protection from harsh UV rays. If you’re taking a loved one outdoors on a hot day, ensure they have dressed appropriately for hot weather. Light, loose-fitting clothing is generally best for hot weather conditions. Also, choose light-colored clothing rather than dark clothes that may absorb heat.
Use Air Conditioning Whenever Possible
It’s best to keep heat and the elderly away from each other whenever possible. Instead, use air conditioning to keep older adults comfortable. If you are at an outdoor event, bring portable fans and umbrellas to help keep your older loved ones safe and comfortable.
Stay Out of Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight can quickly sap anyone’s energy, especially if they are older and maybe have less energy. When outdoors, find the shade first.
Use Sunscreen and Hats to Protect From Sunburn
A little sunscreen can go a long way toward protecting delicate skin from sun exposure. Wide-brimmed hats are also an intelligent wardrobe staple for hot and sunny days. These things can protect your loved one’s skin from the damaging impact of sunburn.
Eat Cooling Snacks
If you know you will be outside with an older loved one in the heat, plan ahead and bring cooling snacks. Some good ideas include watermelon, cucumbers, popsicles low in sugar, frozen grapes, and cold bottled waters. These snacks will help keep body temperatures in normal ranges even when it’s hot outside.
Recognize Symptoms of Heat Stroke
One of the most important things you can do when it comes to heat and the elderly is to learn the symptoms of heat stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care. Here are some indications that your loved one may be experiencing this dangerous condition:
- Body temperature over 103 degrees
- Rapid pulse
- Sudden change in behavior (such as combativeness, delirium, and confusion)
- Dry, hot skin with no visible sweat
- Loss of consciousness
To help a loved one suffering from heat stroke or heat exhaustion, remove clothing, cool them off with cold compresses, give them sips of cool water, and take them to a hospital or call 911.