Weather Safety Tips For Seniors
Bay Alarm Medical
August 8, 2019
In 2003, a severe heat wave killed 15,000 people in France. The majority of them were people aged 75 and over. As people age, they become more susceptible to the effects of extreme heat. The combination of high heat and high humidity can be deadly. It’s important for seniors and caregivers to understand the danger and recognize the symptoms of heat stress.
Why Seniors Are More Vulnerable to Heat Stress
Much of the problem is just age-related. As we age, our bodies can’t adjust to sudden changes in temperature as easily as they did when we were younger. High temperatures that make 20-year-olds merely uncomfortable could send a 70-year-old to the hospital.
Additionally, chronic health problems associated with aging and medications can affect seniors’ ability to tolerate high temperatures. The National Institutes of Health provided this list of common health-related factors that increase risk:
- Age-related changes to the skin, such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands
- Heart, lung, and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever
- High blood pressure or other conditions that require changes in diet, such as salt-restricted diets
- Reduced sweating, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and certain heart and blood pressure drugs
- Taking several drugs for various conditions (It is important, however, to continue to take prescribed medication and discuss possible problems with a physician.)
- Being substantially overweight or underweight
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Being dehydrated
High heat can be especially brutal in crowded urban areas where pavement soaks up heat. Many older people without air conditioners are reluctant to open windows due to fear of crime. Fans can help, but public health experts say that even a short time in an air-conditioned area can help seniors cope with heat.
How to Recognize the Symptoms of Heat Stress
Heat stress can be as mild as a rash or minor sunburn or as serious and life-threatening as heat stroke. The Centers for Disease Control created this chart that highlights the symptoms and provides guidance on how to react.
Download and print this PDF copy to keep for reference.
Tips to Stay Safe During Hot Weather
You can’t do anything about the weather, but you can use take steps to cool down and stay safe.
- Stay Hydrated! Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic beverages. Dehydration makes it harder for the body to regulate temperature and contributes to heat-related illnesses. Avoid alcohol because it has a diuretic effect. It can also impair judgment; you may not realize that you need to seek medical help.
- Wear lightweight, loose clothing.
- Take it easy. Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day, particularly outdoor activities. Save outdoor exercise for early morning or evening.
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. If you’re taking regular medications, be sure you understand the side effects and how they might affect your heat tolerance. For example, diuretic drugs used to treat high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart failure, and other chronic conditions may put you at risk for dehydration in extremely hot weather.
- Take cool showers or baths.
- Be weather aware. The saying “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” is actually true. 90 degrees with 38% humidity feels like 90 degrees, but 90 degrees with 65% humidity feels like a miserable 103 degrees.
- Go somewhere with air conditioning. Many local governments open “cooling centers” during extreme heat waves. Other options include friends and family, malls, public libraries, movie theaters, and other spots open to the public. Even a short time in an air-conditioned place helps your body cope with high temperatures.
Older people who live alone are one of the groups most likely to be hospitalized for heat-related illnesses – or even die from them. Always check on your neighbors, friends, and family members during periods of extreme weather.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can cause dizziness, confusion, and/or unconsciousness. Bay Alarm Medical’s home medical alert with fall detection offers extra protection in these situations. When the system detects a fall, our operators can quickly dispatch first responders to your location and get you the help you need. Call us toll free at 1-877-522-9633 to learn more.