It’s ‘Too Darn Hot’ for Seniors in Joliet

Heat and humidity are a given in mid-summer, but if you’re a senior citizen, hot weather can be much more than just a nuisance. The body’s natural defenses against heat can break down with age, putting seniors at risk for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other serious disorders.

According to ahealthyme.com, several factors make senior citizens especially vulnerable to hot weather, according to. Older bodies can be slow to sense and respond to changes in heat, so seniors often don’t start sweating until their temperature has already soared. Even when the body’s cooling devices kick in, they probably don’t work as well as they used to. Sweat glands can grow less efficient with age, and other normal changes in the skin slow down the release of heat.

In addition, many common conditions can hamper an older person’s ability to regulate temperature, including diseases of the heart, lung, and kidneys; high blood pressure; diabetes; and other conditions that cause poor circulation. Finally, several medications commonly prescribed to seniors can affect the body’s ability to cool down. These include antidepressants, motion sickness drugs, and blood pressure medications.

For all of these reasons, it’s essential for seniors and their loved ones to understand the signs of dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion, the most common forms of heat-related problems.

Dehydration occurs when a person loses more fluid than he or she takes in, and the body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. There are serious consequences if the lost fluids are not replaced.

Common causes of dehydration include diarrhea, vomiting, fever or excessive sweating. Inadequate intake of water during hot weather also may cause dehydration. Anyone can become dehydrated, but young children, older adults and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk.

A person can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by increasing the intake of fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment. Of course, the safest approach is prevention. Monitor fluid loss during hot weather, illness or exercise, and drink enough liquids to replace what’s lost.

Heat exhaustion is a condition with symptoms that may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of the body overheating. A cause of heat exhaustion includes exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a person’s body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke can be brought on by high environmental temperatures, by strenuous physical activity or by other conditions that raise the body temperature. Whatever the cause, immediate medical attention is required in order to prevent brain damage, organ failure or death.

Heatstroke is the escalation of two other heat-related health problems: heat cramps and heat exhaustion. In these conditions, a person develops signs and symptoms that are milder than those of heatstroke. Heatstroke can be prevented with medical attention or by taking self-care steps as soon as problems are noticed.

Heat waves are often deadly for seniors. Older people living in homes without air conditioning need to be checked at least twice a day when the temperature reaches 90 and above, according to ahealthyme.com.

The best way to stay cool during a heat wave is to stay indoors with the air conditioner on high. If there is no air conditioner, consider taking a trip to a cooling center, an indoor mall, library, or movies. A fan can help, but it can’t take the place of an air conditioner. If the temperature reaches the 90s, even the best fan may not protect a person from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Seniors, when you do go outside on a hot day, use common sense. Drink more than you need to quench your thirst, and if you’re sweating heavily, choose fruit drinks or sports beverages to replace lost minerals.

Like the song from Kiss Me Kate says, “It’s Too Darn Hot.”

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