Senior Heat Stroke


It’s hot out there. So far this summer, the temperature in Europe has reached 113 degrees and it got up to 90 degrees in Anchorage, Alaska for the first time ever. Heat can be very dangerous. According to meteorologist Jeff Berardelli, extreme heat causes more deaths per year in the United States than any other weather-related hazard.

People over 65 are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses because their bodies just don’t handle sudden changes in temperature like they used to. They’re also more likely to have chronic illnesses, like heart conditions, that change the body’s normal response to heat. A lot of the work of keeping our body temperature regulated is done by the heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system. Common age-related conditions, like damage from a heart attack or cholesterol-narrowed arteries, can hinder the heart’s efforts to keep us cool.

Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness, and it can come on quickly. Some of the symptoms of heat stroke include: hot, dry skin; fast, strong pulse; dizziness; nausea; and confusion. If you feel like you’re experiencing heat stroke, move to a cooler place and lower your temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath. Putting ice or cold water on your head is also a good way to cool down. If the symptoms get worse, seek immediate medical help.

Here are 5 tips to stay cool and avoid heat stroke this summer.

Check Your Medications

Common medications like diuretics and beta blockers may increase your risk of heat stroke. This is because some medications reduce your body’s ability to sweat, increase the amount you urinate, and reduce your thirst, causing less water drinking. Other medications, like certain antibiotics and supplements like St. John’s Wort, can even make you more susceptible to sunburn, too – another reason to limit your time in the sun. Seniors who take more than one medication that increases their risk of overheating are at an even greater risk of heat stroke.

Stay Hydrated

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, and drink more water than usual. Limit alcohol and sugary drinks, because they can cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps if you’re already hot. The CDC also recommends drinking sports drinks to replace the salt and minerals you lose through sweat. If your doctor has limited the amount you drink or if you are on diuretics, talk to them about staying hydrated.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Choose lightweight, light colored, and loose-fitting clothing. Wear a hat to keep sun off of your head and face. Wear sunscreen, too. Sunburned skin can’t cool the body as well as healthy skin can and may lead to dehydration.

Pace Yourself

Limit the time you spend outdoors on hot days, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you know you’ll have to be outdoors ahead of time, try to acclimate your body to it gradually. Get used to the heat by taking short walks. Don’t engage in strenuous activities and rest often if you have to be outside in the heat.

Stay Cool Indoors

Stay indoors in air conditioning, especially when it’s over 90 degrees and 95 percent humidity. Remember that a breeze from a fan may make your home feel a little cooler, but it’s not really lowering the temperature in your house. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, try to go to a place like an indoor shopping mall or the library, at least for a few hours – and especially during the hottest parts of the day. A cool bath can also help you cool down. Also keep your house cooler by using your stove and oven less.

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