Prevent Heatstroke

By Becky Rolland

Seniors are prone to heat-related illness for three reasons: 

  1. Their bodies do not adjust well to sudden changes in temperature.
  2. They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that upsets normal body responses to heat.
  3. They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.

Heat Stroke Warning Signs
The first sign of danger is lack of sweat. Perspiration acts as a cooling mechanism for your body. On hot, humid days, evaporation is slowed and your body may not be able to keep itself cool.

Other warning signs:

• Pale skin
• Fatigue, weakness
• Dizzy or nauseous
• Rapid pulse
• Fast, shallow breathing
• Muscle weakness, cramps

Avoid the Heat

Never leave a person in a parked car in warm or hot weather, even if the windows are cracked or the car is in shade.
Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day. If you can’t avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, drink fluids and rest frequently in a shady spot.
If you are in a new location, allow yourself several weeks for your body to adjust. People who are not used to hot weather are especially susceptible to heat-related illness.
If you take medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems, avoid the heat.

Be extra careful when the heat index is 90 degrees or above. Always drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol. 

• Wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing.

• Protect against sunburn with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply generously every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or sweating.

• Stay hydrated to help your body sweat and maintain a normal temperature.

• Take extra precautions with medications. Ask your doctor if your medicine puts you at risk for heat stroke.

Take Action
People with heat stroke may have seizures or go into a coma and most also have a fever. If you suspect someone is having a heat stroke, call 911. After moving him to a cooler location, take off heavy clothing. Fan the body and wet it with a cool sponge.  Encourage the individual to drink cool fluids. After a heat stroke, avoid hot conditions for about a week. Ask your doctor to tell you when it is safe to return to normal activities.