Seniors and Hyperthermia: Advice for the Summer
With summer right around the corner, it is so important for seniors—and adults of all ages, to be aware of some of the health risks that can come with the summer heat. While there are a number of different heat-related risks to be aware of during the summer—hyperthermia is one of the most serious and the most common among seniors.
So, what is hyperthermia?
Simply put, hyperthermia is abnormally high body temperature that happens when the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body struggle to deal with the heat that comes from the outside environment.
There are a few different types of hyperthermia. This includes heat stroke, sudden dizziness, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat-related fatigue.
With the summer upon us—here are some facts about hyperthermia that every senior (and their caregiver) should be aware of during this time of year.
- Seniors, particularly those with chronic medical conditions should do their best to stay indoors on particularly hot and humid days, where they can enjoy air conditioning.
- It is best to avoid going outdoors during peak heat times, typically between 12-4 PM.
- Days when air pollution alerts are in effect put seniors at a particularly high risk of hyperthermia.
- Every senior should be drinking 8-10 glasses of water per day, especially in the summer. Dehydration only increases a senior’s tendency to get hyperthermia.
- Seniors should dress in light-colored, thin layers during the summer, to help their body properly sweat and give off heat.
- Seniors with poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands are more prone to hyperthermia than other seniors.
- It is important to avoid alcohol use during hot days—as it can increase a senior’s chances of dehydration.
- High blood pressure, heart, lung and kidney disease all put seniors at a higher risk for hyperthermia.
- Make sure to check your medications. There are certain medications like sedatives, tranquilizers, and diuretics that can reduce perspiration and put seniors at risk for hyperthermia.
There are different forms of hyperthermia. Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia and occurs when the body’s temperature increases above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of heat stroke include strong and rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry skin, flushed complexion, confusion, fainting, staggering or sudden personality changes. If you suspect a senior is having heat stroke, it is important to call 9-1-1 right away.
Keep these tips in mind when the summer season rolls around. Remember, seniors are more prone to the effects of hyperthermia, so it is always important to take extra precautions during this time of year.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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