Heat-Related Safety Issues for Seniors

With extremely high temperatures gripping the area last week, here are heat-related safety issues to keep in mind.  

Heat, when combined with certain medications, can seriously put seniors at risk. Consider this: 80-86% of seniors suffer from a chronic condition or disease that requires medication. The National Weather Service even suggests that there are more heat-related fatalities in the United States than there are during frigid arctic outbreaks. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Seniors are more prone to heatstroke and heat-related stress because their bodies can’t adjust to sudden changes in temperature.
  • Seniors who take certain prescription medications are more susceptible to heat-related injuries and illnesses.

That’s why it is recommended that families pay special attention to seniors who are taking any medications this summer. We also urge families to consult with their doctors or pharmacists regarding the potential impact of heat on any medications.

We checked with physicians to find out what types of effects heat and medications can have on seniors: 

Prescription for Trouble

  • Antidepressants and antihistamines act on an area of the brain that controls the skin’s ability to make sweat. Sweating is the body’s natural cooling system. If a person can’t sweat, he or she is at risk of overheating.
  • Beta-blockers reduce the ability of the heart and lungs to adapt to stresses, including hot weather. This also increases a person’s likelihood of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
  • Amphetamines can raise body temperature.
  • Diuretics act on kidneys and encourage fluid loss. This can quickly lead to dehydration in hot weather.
  • Sedatives can reduce a person’s awareness of physical discomfort which means symptoms of heat stress may be ignored.
  • Ephedrine/Pseudoephedrine, found in over-the-counter decongestants, decreases blood flow to the skin and impacts the body’s ability to cool down.

Here are some easy tips to help seniors stay cool and beat the heat:

Drink Up – Seniors need to drink plenty of water or juice, even if they’re not thirsty. Dehydration is the cause of many heat-related health problems. Avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, which can contribute to dehydration.

Dress Cool – We’re not talking about the latest fashion trends. When it’s hot out, seniors should wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and a wide-brimmed hat.

Mind the Midday Hours – During extreme heat, seniors should stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. when the temperatures tend to be hotter.

Take it Easy – Seniors should avoid exercise and strenuous activity, particularly outdoors when temperatures are on the rise.

Aim for A/C – If a senior’s home isn’t air-conditioned, he or she should seek out a public place with air conditioning during times of extreme heat, such as a mall.

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