If you, or the people you love, are over the age of 65, it is extra important to stay cool and well hydrated during the hot summer months of June, July, and August. A number of factors make seniors more vulnerable to heat and dehydration—some of them may surprise you.
People over 65 are at higher risk of complications from the heat because they are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Keep in mind that:
- Certain medications may cause mouth dryness, increase sensitivity to the sun, or impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature and perspire.
- Some medical conditions may upset the body’s normal response to heat, such as thyroid diseases, high blood pressure, heart and circulatory problems, cancer, and chronic illnesses such as diabetes or lupus.
- Sun, heat, and humidity can trigger breathing problems for adults with respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- When a senior is in danger and shows signs of dehydration, such as confusion, cognitive impairment, or fainting, their symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
It is amazing how essential water is to all body processes, including temperature regulation. Just one cup of water an hour can help prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion, and potentially deadly heat stroke.
Overheated? Here’s what to do.
If you suspect someone is starting to get overheated, take immediate steps to avoid or treat possible heat exhaustion. Move them to a cool environment, give them water to drink, and have them take a cool shower or sponge bath, loosen clothing, lay down, and slightly elevate the legs.
However, if the person is showing serious symptoms such as rapid and shallow breathing, confusion, fast pulse, or is unresponsive, they could have heat stroke, which is an emergency. Call 911 for immediate help and, if possible, move them into a cool area and cool the skin with water, damp sheets, or a fan.
With some extra care and precaution—and a cup of water an hour—you can stay safe all summer long.