Summer Heat Waves Pose Danger For Seniors: How To Prevent Heat Exhaustion & Stroke

Summer evokes images of bright sunshine, ice cold lemonade, juicy watermelon slices, and a hammock on a beautiful beach. However, the dangers of overheating in the summer heat aren't quite so picturesque. Dangerously high temperatures can result in heat-related illnesses ranging from heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. When heat stroke is serious enough, it can be fatal- roughly 3,000 U.S. deaths a year are heat-related, and over 40% of those deaths occur among individuals aged 65 and older.

Seniors are much more likely to be affected by these heat-induced health concerns because our bodies become less efficient at regulating body temperature as we age. Signs of heat-related illness include excessive sweating, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, and muscle cramps, while serious cases may progress to nausea, vomiting, and fainting.

In the dog days of summer, it is more important than ever that seniors are vigilant about remaining hydrated and comfortably cool. Courtney Bartholomew, the Executive Director at Vista Shores Assisted Living & Memory Care in New Orleans, wholeheartedly agrees, stating, “Extra precautions must definitely be taken during summer months, particularly in places with very warm and humid climates like we have here in Louisiana. We make sure that cold, refreshing, fruit-enhanced ice water is always available in our dining room, and we focus on planning enriching, engaging indoor activities to ensure our residents have fun while beating the heat!”

The following tips will help you keep cool and stay healthy all summer long:

- Cotton clothing will keep you cooler than many synthetics; wear loose-fitting clothing, preferably of a light color.

- Keep plastic bottles of water in the freezer; grab one when you're ready to go outside. As the ice melts, you'll have a supply of cold water with you.

- Take frequent baths or showers with cool or tepid water.

- Combat dehydration by drinking plenty of water along with sports drinks or other sources of electrolytes.

- Some people swear by small, portable, battery-powered fans. There are even types that attach to a water bottle and spray a cooling mist.

- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these will promote dehydration. 

Here's to remaining calm, cool, and collected together this summer!