Extreme Heat a Deadly Risk for Older Adults

TUESDAY July 1, 2008 -- As the temperatures rise, older adults become more vulnerable to heat-related health issues because their bodies don't cool down as quickly as younger people.

"Sometimes, older people may not feel hot when the temperature is dangerously high and are also less likely to feel thirsty, which means their bodies have lost too much water," Dr. John B. Murphy, president of The American Geriatrics Society, said in a prepared statement.

Most of the 200 Americans who die of health problems caused by high heat and humidity are age 50 or older. To help seniors stay safe this summer, Murphy suggested:

  • Stay in the air conditioning, whether home or out and about.
  • Fans do not adequately cool down the body during intense heat waves.
  • Avoid extended periods of sun exposure, walking long distances, lifting heavy objects or other strenuous activities.
  • Drink plenty of water and other nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated clear beverages. If one's urine is a light yellow color, enough water is being taken into the body, but if it's darker, the body needs more water.
  • Take cool showers, baths, or sponge baths.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and hats.

Common heat-related health problems to watch for include:

  • Dehydration: Signs include weakness, headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion and passing out.
  • Heat stroke: A body temperature of or above 103 degrees; red, hot and dry skin; a fast pulse; headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, confusion and passing out.
  • Heat exhaustion: Heavy sweating or no sweating, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, paleness, cold or clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about protecting yourself from extreme heat.

Posted: July 2008


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