Staying Safe in the Summer Heat

June 14, 2021

When you step outside, you can feel that summer is coming. The sun is staying up longer, and the heat is settling in. Hot temperatures can be dangerous for senior citizens. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who are 65 or older are more likely to suffer a heat stroke or heat-related illness. June is National Safety Month, and keeping seniors safe as they enjoy summer is very important to us at Legacy Senior Living. 

woman holding towel on her head looking hotHeat-Related Illnesses

Heat-related illnesses are known as hyperthermia. In 2020, the CDC released a study about heat-related deaths in the United States. Between 2004-2018, over 10,500 people died due to heat-related conditions, and individuals over 65 were listed as a group that had a higher mortality rate.  Older individuals are at a higher risk because their bodies are not working as well as they did when they were younger. Risk is also increased for people who have heart, lung, or kidney disease and/or take heart or high blood pressure medications. The CDC says heat-related deaths are preventable. To be able to protect yourself and your older loved ones from suffering a heat-related illness, you need to know about the different types of illnesses and what signs to watch out for. (Source)

Heat syncope is a heat-related illness that causes sudden dizziness. Typically, people can experience this illness when they have been standing for a long period of time. It is also possible for someone to become dizzy while in the process of standing up after sitting or lying down. If you or your loved one takes heart medications, then feeling faint is also a possibility. The key to overcoming heat syncope is to sit and rest in a cool place. Also, slowly drink water or juice. (Source)

Exercising in the heat can lead to heat cramps. These muscle spasms tend to affect the legs, stomach and arms. If you are suffering from heat cramps, it is best to stop what you’re doing and rest. You can also gently massage the affected area and do some simple stretches. If you have heart problems or are still having issues after an hour, then it’s time to call a doctor. (Source)

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the two most serious heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke if you are not careful. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body is no longer able to keep itself cool. Symptoms can range from feeling dizzy or thirsty to feeling weak, uncoordinated or nauseated. It’s also possible for you to have a rapid pulse. If you’re experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, then you need to move to a cool place, sip on water, and either put cold washcloths on your body or take a cold shower. Call a doctor immediately if you are vomiting or still having issues after one hour. 

Heat stroke is listed as a medical emergency. It is crucial that someone experiencing heat stroke gets medical attention as soon as possible. Heat stroke symptoms include:

  • Fainting or losing consciousness
  • Behavior changes: confusion, staggering, grouchy, agitation
  • Fever over 103°F
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Not sweating in hot temperatures
  • Red, hot, dry or damp skin
  • Headache

Unlike other heat-related illnesses, individuals experiencing heat stroke should not drink any liquids. They need to be moved to a cool place. Lowering their temperature using cold washcloths or a cold bath can help. The number one thing you need to do if you or someone else is suffering from these symptoms is call 911. (Source)

Lowering Risks

Since heat-related illnesses are preventable, there are a number of ways you can lower your risk. One of the main things to do is drink plenty of fluids. Not all drinks are equal, however. Stay away from alcoholic beverages and caffeine. Instead, opt for water or juice. Individuals who have been told to limit how much liquid they drink each day or take water pills should talk to their doctor about what they should do to stay hydrated. If you want to spend time outside, make sure you plan your activities for early in the morning or in the evening. When you do go outside, always apply sunscreen. Your best bet is to find a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and is labeled “broad-spectrum,” because it protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing sunglasses and a wide brim hat can help protect you from the sun’s rays, too. It is also recommended that you wear loose, lightweight and light colored clothing in the summer. Finally, check on others. Make sure they have what they need and are taking care of themselves.