With the sun shining brightly and temperatures skyrocketing into the 70’s-80’s and even 90’s, we are more likely to see an influx of Emergency Room and Urgent Care visits for “die-hard sun worshippers” or those without access to a cooler environment. These elevated temperatures can be very harmful to the elderly. Things that can decrease a person’s tolerance for this heat is having extended direct sun exposure (UV rays), taking certain medications (diuretics), having chronic illnesses and being exposed to extreme temperatures. This causes the elderly to be at increased health risk for things such as Heat Stroke, Heat Exhaustion and Dehydration.
To better understand heat related illnesses and how to prevent them, the following information may be a valuable tool to the elderly as well as those who are interested in summer safety precautions.
What is heat exhaustion? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat related illness. It can take a few days of being exposed to high temperatures and not adequately replacing fluids that have been lost through sweat or vomit to bring on heat exhaustion.
What is heat stroke? CDC defines heat stroke as the most serious form of heat related illness. This happens when the body cannot control its temperature and the body’s temperature rises rapidly, causing the body to lose its ability to sweat, and therefore ability to cool down. Body temperature can rise above 106oF or even higher within 10-15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or even permanent disability if emergency care is not given immediately.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke:
How do you protect yourself?
- Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages. If you are on a certain medication such as diuretics or if your doctor limits your fluid intake, you may want to discuss the amount of fluids you should drink on hot days with your doctor.
- Rest, do not participate in strenuous exercise or activity
- Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
- Wear lightweight clothing
- Seek a cool shade, or if possible, an air conditioned environment (malls or public libraries).
How do you protect your elderly relatives or neighbors?
- Visit relatives and neighbors as least twice a day, checking them for signs of heat exhaustion, heat stroke or dehydration.
- Make sure they have access to a cool environment (air-conditioned building or home with electric fans).
What can you do for someone with heat related illness? It is very important to recognize signs of Heat Stroke or severe Heat Exhaustion. If you observe someone who may have signs of any heat related illness, you will need to call for medical assistance immediately and start to do the following.
- Get the person to a shady, cool area.
- Cool the person down quickly. Place in cool water, spray down with cool water or sponge bathe with cool water; or cover with a cool wet sheet.
- Monitor their body temperature, working towards bringing their temperature down below 101F-102F.
- Get medical assistance immediately!
If you have any questions about heat related symptoms, call PTHA at 253-593-0232 and speak with a Consulting Nurse.