Seniors and Heat Waves: How to Stay Safe

Image: Seniors and Heat Waves: How to Stay Safe

Protect yourself against heat waves this summer.

Too much heat is not safe for anyone, but it is especially unsafe for older adults. Seniors are more vulnerable to adverse effects from extreme heat. It is important for seniors to take precautions to protect themselves during the hot summer months.

Why are seniors more vulnerable?

People who are 65 years of age and older are more susceptible to heat stress, these are some of the reasons why:

  • Seniors living in homes or facilities without air conditioning or fans are most at risk.
  • Seniors are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that inhibits regular body responses to heat.
  • As the body ages, it’s more difficult to cope with sudden stresses. For example, on hotter days elderly skin is not able to produce sweat and cool the body as efficiently as younger skin.
  • Taking prescription medicines such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and high blood pressure medications can affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or to produce sweat.
  • Frail seniors who are living alone may experience difficulty with self-care. Some older people have reduced mobility or mental capacity. These factors can make it difficult for seniors to take adequate precautions in hot weather.

Signs of heat stress

These are the signs to look out for if a senior or someone you know is experiencing heat stress:

  • The person is fainting or becoming unconscious.
  • The body temperature is over 40°C.
  • The skin is dry, flushed and has a strong and rapid pulse or a slow and weak pulse.
  • The person is not sweating even if it is hot out.
  • There is a change in the person’s behaviour. This includes confusion, agitation, staggered speech and the person is being grouchy or acting strangely.

If you or someone you know is having a heat stroke, you need to seek medical attention right away.

How to stay cool in the heat

It is important to practice these safety tips to lower the risk of heat-related illness:

  • Drink plenty of liquids such as water, fruit juices or coconut water. Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine.
  • Try to keep the house as cool as possible by utilizing fans or air conditioning whenever possible. Keep the shades, blinds or curtains closed during the hottest times of the day. Open the windows at night to let the cool breeze into the house.
  • Limit use of the oven, especially during the day time.
  • Dress for the weather. Natural fabrics such as cotton or linen tend to be cooler than synthetic fibers.
  • If outside try to stay in the shade, away from the sun. Wear a hat or carry an umbrella for shade.
  • Don’t exercise or do a lot of strenuous activities outdoors when it’s hot.

Related articles

Read these articles to find out more about sun safety and healthy aging:

Sunscreen, are you doing it right?

Know these facts about skin cancer

Seniors in the sun

Heart health and aging: what you need to know