Heat Stroke Signs and Tips for Prevention: Summer Safety for Seniors

With summer temperatures comes higher risk of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion, especially for people 65 years old and older. Heat stroke is a condition where internal body temperature reaches above 104 degrees, with symptoms that can cause serious stress to your internal organs. What you may not know is that seniors are at higher risk of heat stroke outdoors and indoors due to side effects from medications, chronic conditions and more difficulty regulating body temperature compared to younger people. This is why it’s so important to prevent heat stroke in warm temperatures and to act quickly if symptoms appear. Read on to learn more about the signs and prevention of heat stroke in seniors. 

Understanding the warning signs and symptoms of heat stroke

Heat stroke symptoms may surprise you. According to the Mayo Clinic, when internal body temperatures reach over 104 degrees, people can experience dizziness, headaches, confusion and difficulty breathing. People may actually stop sweating, their skin can be flushed or they may have a rapid pulse. It’s critical to understand these signs and understand that they may arise inside as well. Seniors can develop heat stroke indoors when temperatures are high, and often do not address early symptoms until it is too late. 

How to prevent heat stroke 

Understanding the signs and symptoms is the first step to preventing heat stroke, but there are other strategies everyone can implement to ensure they are safe in the summer months. This includes hydration, keeping cool, limiting activities, and staying informed. 

Stay hydrated

Hydration is critical for preventing heat-related illnesses and seniors may not feel the sensation of thirst so it’s important to make hydration a regular habit. Here are some tips for increasing hydration in the heat and preventing early signs of heat stroke:

  • Drink water throughout the day. Ask your doctor what fluid amounts are safe if they have limited fluid intake 
  • Avoid sweet drinks such as sodas as blood sugar spikes impact hydration
  • Replenish electrolytes with sugar-free sports drinks, fruit and vegetable juices 
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these are diuretics
  • Eat hydrating foods such as Jell-O and soups 

Stay cool

New Mexico’s Public Health Tracking lists several tips for preventing heat stroke:

  • Spend time in air conditioning whenever possible indoors — libraries, malls, movie theaters, or with friends and family at their houses. Search the Eldercare Locator for resources in your area.
  • Wear hats, lightweight and light-colored clothing outdoors
  • Don’t schedule outdoor activities or strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day
  • Avoid overexertion 
  • Block the sun indoors with blinds and curtains, and ensure windows are insulated
  • Avoid using the oven
  • Wear sunscreen

Stay informed and stay alert

Stay up to date on the weather forecast and prepare for upcoming heat advisories. Everyone can help prevent heat stroke in their communities by checking in on their neighbors and friends who are at higher risk during heatwaves, and never leaving pets or children inside vehicles. Further, use the buddy system when doing outdoor activities so that if someone starts feeling sick, you can act quickly.

What to do if you suspect heat stroke

The biggest mistake someone can make is to ignore signs and symptoms of heat stroke or misattribute some of the symptoms like nausea or dizziness to another cause. If you or someone you know experiences any of the common warning signs and it’s hot where they are, act immediately:

  • Move to a cool place 
  • Lie down and elevate feet
  • Drink water or electrolyte beverages
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to the head and neck, or take a cool bath
  • Call 911 if symptoms worsen or do not improve quickly

Additional tips and considerations for heat stroke in seniors

Another reason that seniors are more susceptible to heat-related illness is that some medications have side effects that can increase the risk of heat stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a lot of medications are diuretics that can increase the risk of dehydration. Antihistamines and beta-blockers can decrease sweating which impacts temperature regulation. Check with your healthcare provider about the potential side effects for your medications so that you can be more aware in the summer months.

Key takeaways

  • Heat stroke is a serious condition with symptoms that include dizziness, confusion, difficulty breathing, flushed skin and rapid heartbeat among others, putting stress on your internal organs  
  • Seniors are at higher risk of heat stroke due to side effects from medication, chronic conditions and age-related reduction in thirst and body temperature regulation
  • Prevent heat stroke by hydrating, keeping cool as much as possible, staying alert and checking on your neighbors, friends and family
  • If you suspect heat stroke, act quickly by cooling down, and call 911 if symptoms do not subside 

*Disclaimer:

The information provided in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical consultation or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

United Medicare Advisors does not endorse or recommend any specific products, treatments, or procedures mentioned in this article. Reliance on any information provided in this blog post is solely at your own risk. We encourage you to discuss any health concerns o

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