Did you know Older Americans have a naturally diminished capacity to adequately respond to summer heat? They are more likely to have chronic health conditions, and take prescription medicines that impact the body’s ability to sweat and maintain a stable internal temperature. Together, these factors present serious potential health risks for seniors during hot summer months, known collectively as hyperthermia.
This does not mean, however, that aging parents cannot enjoy the summer months. Hyperthermia is mostly preventable as long as proper precautions are taken, and early warning signs are recognized and treated. Most problems can be avoided by staying indoors on extremely hot days, and during the hottest parts of other days. Hats, loose-fitting and light-colored clothes, and proper hydration are also important for elder moms and dads.
Let us share four types of heat-related illnesses, their symptoms, and examples of what you may do about them to help your aging parents.
This is a relatively mild form of hyperthermia, in which areas of skin become irritated due to overheating in hot, humid conditions. Heat rash can be treated by staying inside air conditioned places, and keeping impacted areas dry.
Sunburn is widely understood, and can range from red, sensitive skin to painful blisters. Staying out of the sun, covering skin appropriately, and using moisturizers are all effective treatments.
Heat exhaustion is a dangerous heat-related illness characterized by cold, pale, and clammy skin while a senior adult is present in hot conditions. Dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting are other symptoms to be aware of. If recognized, do not hesitate to move the senior adult to a cool place immediately. Have him or her lie down, and place cool, wet hand towels on the forehead, neck, and wrists. Encourage them to sip drinking water and call for medical help, if necessary.
Heat stroke is an emergency situation with many of the same symptoms as heat exhaustion, except that the internal body temperature has risen to 103-degrees or higher. Call 911 if you suspect a senior loved one is suffering from heat stroke.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. As children of aging parents it is critical for each of us to do all that we can to help our aging parents with their elder care challenges, of which heat-related illness are just one example. We encourage you to work with your parents to find the solutions they need and do not wait to contact us with your elder care questions this summer or in the future.