When it gets hot outside, elderly people are more at risk of heat stress health issues such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Even though conditions at a picnic, outdoor event or even a car during the summer months might not trigger heat-related problems in younger adults, seniors can be affected. Family caregivers and those involved with elder care assistance should definitely get familiar with the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion in seniors.
What is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is when the body overheats and cannot regulate its own temperature. It is the beginning of heatstroke, which can lead to death if not treated quickly. Heatstroke happens when the body’s internal temperature remains higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The internal organs cannot operate well under these conditions, and they begin to suffer from serious complications. Because an elderly person’s body doesn’t self-regulate as quickly or as well as it did when they were younger, they can quickly develop heat exhaustion and then heatstroke in a short amount of time.
More people die of heat-related complications than any other weather events combined, including tornadoes, flooding and lightning strikes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat exhaustion is completely preventable when people take precautions, and family caregivers and elder care aides can help seniors avoid exposure.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion in Seniors
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, headaches and nausea, followed by fatigue, rapid pulse, heavy sweating, and muscle cramps. Other symptoms include vomiting, disorientation, and rapid breathing. Seniors can show the symptoms rather rapidly or the onset could be over a period of time. Without taking emergency action, heat exhaustion can quickly turn to heatstroke. The difference is that with heat exhaustion, the person is usually sweating a lot. With heatstroke, the body has used all the sweat and the elderly person’s skin will feel dry.
With seniors, many of the early symptoms of heat exhaustion can also mimic some age-related conditions that may fool family caregivers to overlook the dangers. However, if the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke are present, it’s important to seek out medical attention right away.
Treating Heat Exhaustion in Seniors
If family caregivers notice that their elderly loved one is demonstrating the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, they must act quickly before heatstroke can follow. The elderly person should be moved to a cool place and out of the sun as quickly as possible. Any tight clothing should be loosened and layers removed.
Every effort should be made to cool the body down, such as by misting with water, placing cold wet cloths or in the armpits, around the neck, back or groin. Caregivers can also wipe down the skin with water and then fan the elderly person to hasten evaporation. The elderly person should also drink as much water as they can to rehydrate the body. Soda, alcohol and juice may actually hurt rehydration efforts. If the elderly person is not showing signs of improvement immediately, they should be taken to a medical facility for evaluation.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering in-home elder care in Waterbury, CT, please contact the caring staff at Franciscan Ever There Care. Call today 203-630-2881.
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