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Heat stroke – Reducing the risks for older adults 

Heat stroke – Reducing the risks for older adults 

Summer is a great time to connect with our family, get out and do things and make memories. There are a few things that you need to remember to keep the older adults in your life safe this summer.

As we get older, some natural changes happen to our body that make it harder for people to manage work and play at higher temperatures. First, as we age, we can’t sweat as much, making it harder to keep our temperature down.  Second, older individuals tend to dehydrate more due to changes in their kidneys.  Last, elders tend to sense thirst and dehydration less, so they are less likely to start drinking fluids when they need them.

Studies show that when you start to feel dehydration, you are already about 2% dehydrated. Even at 2% down in fluids, you have lost some of your ability to regulate your temperature. Surveys from 1999-2009 show that roughly 40 percent of all heat-related deaths in the U.S. (nearly 3,000) were adults over 65 years old.  Heat stroke is unusually severe for older adults.


How does heat stroke present itself?  And what should you do?


Early symptoms of heat stroke include:

-Extreme fatigue and weakness

-Excessive Sweating

-Headache and muscle cramping

In these early stages, typical first aid procedures include getting the senior to a cool place to lie down and rest.  Applying cold packs to armpits and groins can help get the body temperature down faster.  Encourage fluids, including electrolyte/sugar liquids like sports drinks watered down to half strength.


Later and more worrying symptoms of heat stroke include:

-Hot, dry skin


-Difficult to wake


If you see these things happening call 911 or get the person to the ER.


Part of the problem with heat stroke is that confusion and lethargy are symptoms. So when you are getting worse, you often are not aware of what is happening to you. All you want to do is take a nap and you feel very, very bad (I know this from my personal experience.)  It is those who are with the person at risk, who can see what is happening, that can make the moves to cool things off.