How to Avoid Heat Illness During a Heat Wave

The tinkling tune of the ice cream truck making its way down the block is a sure sign that summer has arrived. Later sunsets, warmer weather, seasonal treats like watermelon and farmers’ market tomatoes—what’s not to like about summer?

Turns out, a number of heat-related health conditions can put a cramp in the fun—particularly for seniors. Staying safe in summer is about more than avoiding dehydration and sunburn (although those are certainly important!). Hot weather can also cause hyperthermia—a collective term for illnesses including heat stroke, heat edema (swelling in the feat and ankles due to heat), heat syncope (dizziness after exertion in warm weather), heat cramps, and heat exhaustion.

Many older adults don’t adjust as well as younger people to sudden swings in temperature, due to prescription medications that can impact the body’s ability to regulate temperature, or chronic medical conditions. The National Institute on Aging shares health factors that may increase a person’s susceptibility to hyperthermia, including:

  • Poor blood circulation
  • Heart, lung, and kidney diseases
  • Any illness that causes general weakness or fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Being extremely overweight or underweight

What are the best ways to help your older loved one stay safe in rising temperatures?

Seek out air-conditioning. If your loved one doesn’t have air-conditioning in their home, contact your local health department or senior center to ask about air-conditioned spaces that are available to the public.

Stay hydrated. Remind them to drink more water than usual, and not to wait until they feel thirsty to drink. When in doubt, ask them to consult their doctor about how much water they should be consuming.

Avoid using the stove or oven, which can heat up their home. This is a great time for salads or sandwiches!

Dress for the heat. Suggest loose, lightweight clothing for breathability.

Reduce activity levels. Ask your loved one to save strenuous walks for cooler days, and make sure they’re getting enough rest.

Stay in touch. Heat-induced illness can cause people to feel confused or even lose consciousness. Check on your older loved one twice a day during extremely hot weather.

Stay informed. Keep an eye on the local news for extreme heat alerts so you can help your loved one prepare accordingly.

Enjoy these summer days and stay safe out there! Remember, Seniors At Home is here to offer support to you and your family. Our caregivers, personal assistants, and other resources are only a phone call away. Please reach out if you need us!

To set up a consultation, or with any questions related to aging and senior care, call us at 415-449-3777 or contact us online.