Jun 21, 2018 by David Yeomans
Summer is a time for outdoor fun and activities. It is also a time for Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories. These advisories warn when the heat index (temperature added to relative humidity) reaches dangerous levels. In 2016, 124 million Americans, just under 40 percent of the country, faced dangerous heat-related conditions. This year, the National Weather Service has already issued dozens of heat advisories throughout the country.
In addition to making life uncomfortable and driving up cooling costs, high heat and humidity also dramatically increases the risk of heat-related injuries. Heat-related injuries impact everybody but seniors over 50 and infants are at the greatest risk because their bodies do not regulate heat as well as individuals from other age groups. Seniors also tend to dehydrate faster because their body is not as efficient as it once was, and most seniors simply do not feel as thirsty as they did in younger years. This is a problem since the primary way to avoid heat-related injuries is through proper hydration.
While high temperatures often lead to issues such as heat cramps, heat rash, and sunburn, there are two conditions that are much more serious: heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In fact, heat stroke can lead to permanent brain, heart, and kidney damage or death.
Comfort Keepers at home elder care encourages all seniors to take precautions this summer and to learn the signs or heat exhaustion and stroke as well as what to do about it.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body struggles to cool itself by producing vast amounts of sweat. This depletes the body of water and electrolytes. The body typically appears wet and pale while the heart is racing. Seniors often experience fatigue, confusion, and personality changes during this time. If heat exhaustion is not addressed quickly, the next step is heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer produce sweat to cool itself and the body quickly overheats with temperatures going above the danger zone of 104 degrees F. The skin becomes hot, dry, and red. Seniors experiencing heat stroke often hallucinate, are disoriented, and may lose consciousness or fall into a coma.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Comfort Keepers at home elder care suggests the following if you suspect your senior loved one may be experiencing heat stroke:
To reduce the risk of heat stroke, ensure your senior loved one remains properly hydrated, especially during times when the heat index is high. Limit outdoor activities during times of high heat and ensure air conditioning and ventilation is working properly in the home and car. If there is a power outage, ensure your loved one has a way to get to a location with air conditioning.
For more information about heat stroke or the many ways Comfort Keepers at home elder care can help maximize your loved one's safety and quality of life, contact a senior home care coordinator today.
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