In June 2023, several cities in Texas hit or surpassed 110 degrees – temperatures that are “more common at this time of year in parts of northern Africa and the Middle East.”
As record-breaking temperatures continue to sweep the U.S., it’s more important than ever to understand heat safety. That’s especially true when it comes to protecting those who are vulnerable to heat, like older adults.
Seniors and Heat Safety: Why It’s So Important
Seniors are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses because:
- They don’t adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature
- They’re more likely to have a chronic medical condition that can change the body’s responses to heat
- They’re more likely to take prescription medications that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.
Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke
There are several types of heat-related illnesses, but the most well-known are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water and salt, usually through excessive sweating.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Decreased urine output
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. Body temperature rises rapidly and the body is unable to sweat properly, leading to an inability to cool down.
When heat stroke occurs, body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher in only 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person does not receive emergency treatment.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness (coma)
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Very high body temperature
First Aid for Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
- Take someone experiencing a heat-related illness to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation and potential treatment
- Call 911 if medical care is unavailable or if the individual is showing symptoms of heat stroke
- Stay with them until help arrives
- Remove them the hot area and give them liquids to drink
- Remove unnecessary clothing, including shoes and socks
- Cool the individual with cold compresses or have them wash their head, face, and neck with cold water
- Encourage frequent sips of cool water
In the case of suspected heat stroke, cool the individual quickly, using the following methods, while waiting for emergency services to arrive:
- With a cold water or ice bath, if possible
- Wet the skin
- Place cold wet cloths on the skin
- Soak clothing with cool water
- Circulate the air around the individual to speed cooling
- Place cold wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits, and groin; or soak the clothing with cool water
Keeping Your Senior Parent Safe in Extreme Heat
Heat-related deaths are preventable, but over 600 people in the U.S. die from exposure to extreme heat every year. Older adults (aged 65 and up) are especially vulnerable to illness or death from high temperatures.
When the temperature reaches 80 degrees or higher, you should take precautions to ensure that your aging parent stays safe:
- Keep your parent away from direct sun exposure as much as possible. Getting outdoors from time to time is important for physical and mental health, but try to plan outdoor activities for early morning or evening
- Encourage them to wear loose, light-colored clothing that will keep them cooler, as well as hats or scarves to protect them from the sun
- Encourage your parent to stay hydrated. If you’re their caregiver, provide them with plenty of cool non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated liquids, like water or juice
- Help them to spend as much time as possible in air conditioning. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, try to spend the hottest hours of the day in public air-conditioned spaces like libraries, malls, movie theaters, your local senior center, etc.
- Encourage/help your parent to cool down with cool wet cloths, sponge baths or tepid showers
Find Peace of Mind at Eagle Flats Village
Even if you’re pretty sure your parent is able to protect themself from extreme weather, wouldn’t it be nice to know for certain that they’re safe? The peace of mind our 24/7 care team provides can remove any doubts you have that your parent is being looked after. We take steps to protect our residents from excessive heat and sun exposure and provide plenty of stimulating indoor activities to keep them occupied throughout the summer months.
Are you ready to leave doubt behind and always know that your parent is safe and happy?
See what peace of mind looks like.