Tips for Keeping Seniors Cool and Avoiding Heat Exhaustion

July 18, 2013
With temperatures scorching throughout the country this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants people to be cool. According to a CDC study published in the June 6 journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 650 deaths each year from extreme heat could have been prevented. In total, there were 7,233 heat-related deaths from 1999 to 2009."Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable," said lead author Ethel Taylor, a researcher for the CDC. "Taking steps to stay cool, hydrated and informed in extreme temperatures can prevent serious health effects like heat exhaustion and heat stroke." Those most at risk for heat illnesses and death are the elderly, children, the poor and those with pre-existing medical conditions, so it's also important to keep an extra set of eyes on people in these populations to ensure they're staying safe.

What is Heat Stroke and How Do You Get Heat Exhaustion?

Heat stroke is a condition in which the body cannot regulate its own temperature, and may lead to death or permanent disability. Symptoms include a high body temperature above 103 degrees, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness. People may also have red, hot and dry skin with no sweating and a rapid pulse. They could also have a painful headache. If someone is experiencing heat stroke, get them to a shady area and help cool them with whatever methods you know including putting them in a tub of cool water or a cold shower. Try to get their body temperature to drop to 102 or 101 degrees. Do not give the victim something to drink, and get them medical attention as fast as possible. Heat exhaustion, on the other hand, is a milder form of illness which can occur after a few days of exposure to high heat without replenishing fluids. Signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscles cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting and fainting. The person may have a fast and weak pulse as well as breathing, and the skin may be cool and moist. If you see someone experiencing heat exhaustion, make sure they cool off through rest and by drinking cool, nonalcoholic beverages. Also, stay in colder area. Seek medical help if symptoms worsen or persist over an hour. Here are some helpful tips from the CDC for the hot weather:
  1. Try to keep their body temperatures down and stay hydrated
  2. Wear appropriate clothing for the occasion, whether indoors or outdoors
  3. Be aware of extreme heat events and warning signs for heat-related illness to look for
And, when it comes to staying hydrated, not just any soft drink will do: "Water is an ideal fluid for hydration, and it is recommended to avoid excessive amounts of caffeine, which can lead to hydration," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.