Elderly at Greater Risk for Heat Stroke, Experts
THURSDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of heat-related
illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, increases with
age, experts at the U.S. National Institute on Aging warn.
As people get older, the researchers explained, they are less
able to adapt to high temperatures, like those engulfing much of
the nation now. As a result, the heat might exacerbate any medical
conditions they have.
In addition, older folks may develop certain health problems
that could increase their risk of hyperthermia (when the body
overheats), the NIA researchers pointed out in a news release from
the U.S. National Institutes of Health. These include:
- Underlying diseases such as congestive heart failure, diabetes
and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Trouble walking or moving around.
- Dementia or other problems with thinking skills.
- Overweight or obesity.
- Age-related changes to the skin, including reduced function in
Medications that older people take may cause dehydration or
affect the ability of their heart, blood vessels or sweat glands to
respond to the heat, the NIA experts added.
An elderly person's environment can also influence their
response to the heat. For instance, not having access to air
conditioning or transportation, or overdressing could put them at
greater risk for heat-related illnesses involving hyperthermia,
including heat fatigue; heat syncope (lightheadedness or fainting
in the heat); heat cramps; and heat exhaustion.
When the body's temperature hits 104 degrees Fahrenheit, heat
stroke (an advanced form of hyperthermia) sets in, according to
background information in the news release. Signs that someone is
suffering from heat stroke may include: a strong, rapid pulse; lack
of sweating; dry flushed skin; faintness; staggering; and mental
status changes, such as confusion, combativeness, disorientation or
even coma, the experts noted.
To stay cool and avoid these heat-related illnesses, the NIA
researchers cautioned the elderly to pay attention to air pollution
alerts. Anyone without fans or air conditioners, they added, should
go to public places with air conditioning, such as shopping malls,
movie theaters or libraries.
If, however, it is suspected that someone is suffering from a
heat-related illness, the NIA advised people to take the following
- Call 911 immediately.
- Move them into air conditioning or another cool place.
- Urge them to lie down and rest.
- Remove or loosen tight-fitting or heavy clothing.
- Encourage them to drink water or juices if they are able to
drink, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Apply cold water or cold compresses to their skin.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides
more tips on how to prevent
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.