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Prevent heat-related illness for older adults.

During the summer, it is important for everyone, especially older adults and people with chronic medical conditions, to be aware of the dangers of hyperthermia, cautions the National Institute on Aging.

Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms in the body to deal with the heat coming from the environment. Heatstroke, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat fatigue are common forms of hyperthermia. People can be at increased risk for these conditions, depending on the combination of outside temperature, their general health, and individual lifestyle.

Older people, particularly those with chronic medical conditions, should stay indoors, preferably with air conditioning or at least a fan and air circulation, on hot and humid days, especially when an air pollution alert is in effect. Living in housing without air conditioning, not drinking enough fluids, not understanding how to respond to the weather conditions, lack of mobility and access to transportation, overdressing, and visiting overcrowded places all are lifestyle factors that can increase the risk for hyperthermia.

People without air conditioners should go to places that have it, such as senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters, and libraries. Cooling centers--which may be set up by local public health agencies, religious groups, and social service organizations in many communities--are another option.

The risk for hyperthermia may increase from age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands; alcohol use; being substantially under- or overweight; dehydration; heart, lung, and kidney diseases as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever; high blood pressure or other health conditions that require changes in diet; reduced perspiration, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and certain heart and blood pressure drugs; and use of multiple medications.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and is unable to control its temperature. Heatstroke occurs when someone's body temperature increases significantly (above 104[degrees]F) and shows symptoms of the following: strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, mental status changes (like combativeness or confusion), staggering, faintness, or coma. Seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with any of these symptoms, especially an older adult.

If you suspect someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:

* Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned, or other cool place. Urge the person to lie down.

* If you suspect heatstroke, call 911.

* Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits, and/or groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin.

* Help the individual to bathe or sponge off with cool water.

* If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water or fruit and vegetable juices, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.

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Title Annotation:Dog Days of August
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2014
Words:478
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