Hot weather is dangerous, and seniors are particularly prone to its threat. Elderly heat stroke and heat exhaustion can be a real problem. A recent University of Chicago Medical Center study, in fact, found that 40 percent of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65.
Heat when combined with certain medications, can seriously put seniors at risk. Considering the fact that some 80 to 86 percent of seniors suffer from a chronic condition or disease that requires medication, the summer heat can pose significant challenges. The National Weather Service even suggests that there are more heat-related fatalities in the United States than there are during cold weather outbreaks.
Here are some easy tips to help seniors stay cool and beat the heat:
Drink Up - Seniors need to drink plenty of water or juice, even if they’re not thirsty. Dehydration is the cause of many heat-related health problems. Avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, which can contribute to dehydration.
Dress Cool - When it’s hot out, seniors should wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and a wide-brimmed hat.
Mind the Midday Hours - During extreme heat, seniors should stay indoors between 10 a.m. and six p.m. when the temperatures tend to be hotter.
Take it Easy - Seniors should avoid exercise and strenuous activity, particularly outdoors when temperatures are on the rise.
Aim for A/C - If a senior’s home isn’t air conditioned, they should seek out a public place with air conditioning during times of extreme heat, such as a mall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors are more prone to heat stroke and heat-related stress because their bodies can’t adjust to sudden changes in temperature. Seniors who take certain prescription medications are more susceptible to heat-related injuries and illnesses.
That’s why SYNERGY HomeCare recommends that families pay particular attention to seniors that are taking any medications this summer.
“We strongly urge families to consult with their doctor or pharmacist regarding the potential impact of heat on any medications,” said Carla Sutter, director of operations at SYNERGY HomeCare. “We checked with physicians to find out what types of effects heat and medications can have on seniors.”
Antidepressants and antihistamines act on an area of the brain that controls the skin’s ability to make sweat. Sweating is the body’s natural cooling system. If a person can’t sweat, they are at risk for overheating.
Beta-blockers reduce the ability of the heart and lungs to adapt to stresses, including hot weather. This also increases a person’s likelihood of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Amphetamines can raise body temperature.
Diuretics act on kidneys and encourage fluid loss. This can quickly lead to dehydration in hot weather.
Sedatives can reduce a person’s awareness of physical discomfort which means symptoms of heat stress may be ignored.