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High Temperatures Can Have A Devastating Effect On Seniors

High Temperatures Can Have A Devastating Effect On Seniors

Keeping the temperature down on hot nights isn't easy, but it can be done.

Keeping the temperature down on hot nights isn’t easy, but it can be done.

It’s wonderful when summer finally comes, especially after a long, cold winter season of low temperatures. However, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Heat could  have negative effects on certain sections of the population, particularly people who have certain health conditions, young children and seniors. Here are a few of the ways in which heat can affect elderly people.

Dehydration

Elderly people are susceptible to chronic medical conditions, for which they are more likely to be taking drugs which might contribute to dehydration. If an elderly person is taking water tablets, maybe as treatment for high blood pressure or heart disease, they are likely to become dehydrated rather quickly. For this reason, are likely to suffer the effects of heat stress sooner than younger people who are not taking medication.

High humidity can soon enhance the effects of dehydration.  As the body gets dehydrated, the blood thickens, and that means the heart must work harder to circulate it through the body. If a person already has a heart condition or a circulation problem, this could even prove fatal, particularly in the elderly.

Overheating

As people become overheated, they may have breathing difficulties, especially if they already have a heart condition. This makes any symptoms of heat stress more severe. Elderly people do not react or respond to extreme heat as quickly as younger people, and they can soon become overheated. Also, with age, people tend to be less active and perspire less. That means the body can’t cool itself effectively via sweat evaporation.

Some seemingly innocuous substances can have a dramatic effect on the body’s natural cooling system. Alcohol may impair awareness of heat, and that can be serious in an elderly person whose reaction and response to heat may not be as efficient as that of younger people. Antihistamines inhibit sweating, while other drugs, which are often prescribed for elderly people with chronic conditions, may also affect the sweating mechanism adversely, or even interfere with the body’s natural temperature control system.

Confusion

The lethal combination of heat and dehydration in elderly people can often cause dizziness, which may lead to a fall. Also, the person may become confused and if they are already suffering from a certain level of confusion or dementia, this can be exacerbated by the effects of heat and dehydration.

The ways in which heat can affect the elderly is worrying. However the good news is that any adverse effects are entirely preventable. If you know an elderly person who lives alone, check on them to ensure they are coping well with the heat. If possible, persuade them to allow you to take their temperature with an infrared thermometer. With the right precautions and some common sense and forward planning, elderly people can come through the heat of the summer safely and healthily.

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